Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More warrantless searches

NYT Article

Ok, so I'm a couple of days behind going through my news feeds, but this one really got the neurons firing at 7:00am. We, as a nation, are becoming ever more inventive at finding ways of limiting our freedom. If you don't have time to link thru to the article, it discusses pending appelate review of warrantless searches of personal computers carried into the US. The primary defendant isn't all that appealing a character, but the case should be a cause for concern for anyone looking at this post.

I've got three computers in my home, plus a work computer. What distinguishes them from a border-crossing laptop? Form factor? No, they're all laptops. Purpose? Not really...they all have some combination of business and personal information on them (note to my employers: yes, the work computer contains only limited personal info). Residence of owner? No, the owner of the computer in question is a US citizen. Location? Bingo! The defendants computer was coming into the US with him, while mine sit inside my house.

Unfortunately, the physical location of data means less and less in our current legal environment. You don't have to be a legal scholar to draw a fairly straight line from warrantless border searches of laptops to warrantless electronic intrusions into the hard drive of the computer on which you're reading this post. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it in their FOTC brief, it's "...simply electronic surveillance after the fact."