Computer Laptops and US Customs

April, 2008: A US federal appeals court in California reversed a lower court ruling that "reasonable suspicion" was required to inspect electronic media. The higher court said the government has "inherent sovereign authority" to randomly inspect passengers and their baggage - including the contents of the laptop computers and other electronic devices of international travellers entering the US - even without "reasonable suspicion." The lower court had said electronic storage devices act as extensions of the mind and memory and should not be summarily searched. That finding was reversed. The ruling prompted a warning from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) that corporations and their business travellers should limit the amount of proprietary data on laptop computers and other devices when crossing US borders. It also warned that personal data, including photographs, finances and e-mail, are subject to examination by Customs and Border Protection inspectors. Business travellers have had their company laptops not only searched but seized. ACTE also expressed concern that the government has issued no guidelines for travellers as to what circumstances might trigger a secondary inspection or seizure of an electronic device. The appeals court did not address those issues.

(Source: Travel Industry Today via Bruce Bishop, author, writer, media relations consultant, special event planner

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