Having your laptop searched at the US border – legal or intrusive?

By Mark O’Neill

Boing Boing has highlighted an interesting page on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website which talks about a recent court ruling – United States v. Arnold – which essentially allows US border guards to search your laptop or other digital devices without legal restraint if you try to enter the United States.

This has got a lot of civil liberties groups up in arms (or as South Park likes to put it, “rabble! rabble! rabble!”), as obviously the contents of your laptop are private. You could have sensitive business information on there. For example, what if you’re a lawyer and you have confidential client information that you can’t reveal to a third party? Or on a personal level, perhaps embarrassing stuff like kinky porn which technically may be legal under the US constitution to own and look at but obviously you don’t want a border guard finding it on your computer? You might even have something REALLY downright embarrassing and reputation destroying like some Britney Spears music from iTunes.

So are there any legal ways or crafty dodges to get around this obvious violation to your privacy and civil liberties? Plus is this court ruling right? Could it be open to an appeal?