Tech

Data smuggling: US court restricts searches of electronic devices

A US court has restricted the powers of US border officials to search electronic devices. Accordingly, officials are only allowed to search smartphones or laptops if there is an individual suspicion of smuggled content on the devices. The decision of the Massachusetts District Court in Boston terminates the authority of the authorities "Search and confiscate travelers' devices for purposes far removed from the enforcement of immigration and customs laws". the US civil rights organization ACLU announced on Tuesday, As illegal contraband, the US border and immigration authorities referred in the process, inter alia, child pornography, secret information and counterfeit media.

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The US government under President Donald Trump had in January 2018 new rules for the search of electronic devices at the border decided. While a distinction was made between routine and non-routine examinations, there was now a simple and an advanced search. For an advanced search, which allows reading the device with external tools, as well as the non-routine searches "justified suspicion" required. Then the border officials are allowed to search, copy and analyze the contents of a device. The suspicion exists, for example, in case of violations of law or threat to national security. A simple search uses only the internal search functions of the device without an Internet connection.

Reasonable suspicion must always exist

However, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wanted to see a court order required for such an extended search. In September 2017, a lawsuit was filed with the District Court in Boston. The organizations relied, inter alia, on the fourth addition to the US Constitution (Fourth Amendment), which is intended to protect US citizens from governmental attacks.

The judges are writing now in the judgmentthat the simple search (basic search) can release a lot of personal data. "The court is unable to make a meaningful distinction between the two types of searches in terms of data protection", is it[calledThisisespeciallytruebecausetheoperatingsystemsnowhaveinternalsearchcapabilitiesthatcomeclosetothoseoftheexternaltools

Therefore you have to start with the simple search "justified suspicion" are present, write the judges. Such a suspicion, however, would justify a search of the devices if there were specific and articulate facts, "that the electronic device contains contraband", Even assuming that the device of a foreign traveler contained clues that contradicted the statements made about the purpose of residence in the USA, there would be no sufficient reason for unrestricted access "on the treasure of personal data of the device before",

According to a statistic of the US border agency CBP more than 30,000 electronic devices were searched in 2017.

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