Right now, border agents can search your computer without a warrant or probable cause—and it's long past time for that to change, asserts the New York Times in an editorial. Borders need to be protected, but there's "a big difference between government agents scanning items for explosives ... and searching through the hard drive of a laptop computer containing work papers, financial records, email messages, and website visits." Between October 2008 and June 2010, more than 6,600 travelers—almost 3,000 of whom were American—underwent such searches, according to government records.
Border guards can also share data from your computer, smartphone, or other devices with other agencies. This policy "permits the government to engage in indiscriminate and invasive fishing expeditions." Now, as the ACLU files a lawsuit challenging the policy, it's time for Congress to approve legislation protecting travelers. "The challenge, as ever, is to strike a balance that grants sufficient leeway to protect the nation’s borders without allowing the intimate details of people’s lives and work to be searched, seized, and copied on a whim."