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Friday, February 08, 2008

Lawsuit seeks search clarity

Organizations want feds to explain policy on seizing electronic devices at border

Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since 1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained at Customs and her cell phone was taken from her purse.

After her phone was returned, Mango noticed records of calls had been erased.

Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda, Md., said she had her company laptop seized by a federal agent as she was flying out of Washington, D.C., to head home to London in December 2006.

The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras, cell phones or MP3 players.

In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, planned to file a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including what rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices.

The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, almost all of which involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background, many of whom said they are concerned they were singled out because of racial or religious profiling. [Link]

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