Searches Without Suspicion

Microsoft develops a tool for enforcement agencies to gather digital evidence through examination of a computer or laptop.

Obama upholds laptop search policy of the Bush administration.

Nova Scotia bishop is charged with possession of child pornography after a random search of his laptop at an Ottawa airport.

If there was a reason to search the bishop’s laptop, so be it. However, the notion of a random search, a search without suspicion, seems a bit too invasive to me.

Microsoft’s tool is called Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor. This tool helps simplify the problem of gathering computer evidence of cybercrime. It utilizes common forensics tools to aid officers at the scene in gathering evidence with a single USB device.

Border officials in the United States and Canada have every right to search and seize any electronic device: laptop, Blackberry, iPod. Here is one interesting Canadian experience. But, according to this American’s experience, our border agents were not always well equipped to search laptops. And finally, this article provides an excellent overview of what to expect when traveling with electronic devices.

Nathan Sales, an Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, presented an interesting paper on laptop searches and other violations of privacy faced by Americans. His view is that border searches of laptop computers and other electronic devices implicate a range of compelling, and sometimes competing, interests. Those interests include the government”™s paramount need to detect terrorists crossing our borders and to combat child pornography, as well as law-abiding travelers”™ equally weighty interest in maintaining their personal privacy. You can download a pdf of his paper here.

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