Computers: An extension of ourselves?

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A quick followup to Tuesday’s post: While the courts have made it clear that US Customs agents have the right to browse your computer any time you bring it across the border, there is one very interesting dissenting opinion.

During a 2006 child pornography case, where the evidence relied on an airport search of the defendant’s computer as he returned from the Philippines, Federal District Judge Dean Pregerson argued that the evidence should be suppressed. What’s interesting is his reasoning.

“Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory,” he wrote. “They are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound.”

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He says that authorities should not be able to search computers, BlackBerries, or PDAs without probable cause, because, as The New York Times reports, they can store “diaries, letters, medical information, financial records, trade secrets, attorney-client materials and — the clincher, of course — information about reporters’ ‘confidential sources and story leads.’ ”

Judge Pregerson’s idea, however, is not the law. Most rulings agree that computers are simply lifeless gadgets and that anyone crossing the US border is liable to a full review of their belongs, digital or otherwise. Still, it’s a cool idea.

[Via NYTimes]

Also see:
Border security – for your laptop

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