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Court limits border searches of laptops

(San Francisco Chronicle) A federal appeals court put restrictions Friday on officers’ authority to search laptop computers at U.S. border inspections, requiring grounds to suspect wrongdoing before agents use equipment that can unlock computer passwords.

The 8-3 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was the first of its kind by an appellate court. Border agents generally can search incoming travelers and most types of property without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Laptops, iPads and similar devices “contain the most intimate details of our lives: financial records, confidential business documents, medical records and private e-mails,” said Judge Margaret McKeown in the majority opinion.