Searches of computers and computer data at the United States border: The need for a new framework following United States v. Arnold

Sara Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The astounding opportunities provided by emerging technologies have also made us increasingly vulnerable to state surveillance and information gathering. These advances are not only invading our privacy rights but they are forcing us to reassess our understanding of privacy altogether. Security and privacy are important social and political goals that cannot easily be separated or exchanged for one another. These concerns are paramount in the current debate about the constitutionality of border searches of electronic storage devices. On the one hand, many Americans are troubled by the threats posed by terrorist attacks and the importation of contraband, including child pornography. On the other hand, individual travelers have an interest in protecting their privacy, particularly with respect to their personal information. The question of whether the government can conduct a border search of the information on a traveler's laptop computer without Fourth Amendment review is a complex issue that is ripe for determination, because technological advances have enabled business and leisure travelers to store vast amounts of private information within a variety of electronic storage devices, including laptop computers, personal organizers, cellular telephones, and CDs. Given these new realities, it is significant that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently released its judgment in what is undoubtedly its most controversial laptop border search case.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-105
Number of pages37
JournalUniversity of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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