A federal district judge dismissed a lawsuit on Tuesday that challenged whether officials can search electronic devices at the border, upholding the right of authorities to conduct such searches of personal devices without a warrant or reasonable suspicion.
The ruling is a defeat for civil liberties activists who had argued that electronics, because they contain vast amounts of personal information, shouldn't be held to the same standards as other personal possessions at the border.
The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a French-American graduate student who had his laptop searched and confiscated entering the country from Canada, along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Press Photographers Association. The NACDL argued that the border searches put its members at risk of violating client confidentiality, as many travel internationally to meet with clients and may carry information or recordings on their electronics with them. The NPPA also argued that its members frequently cross the border and may have material related to confidential sources that should be protected by freedom of the press.
On Tuesday, Eastern District of New York Judge Edward R. Korman dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the border policy as a whole, and saying that the student failed to argue the search of his devices was unreasonable.