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A fancy piece of luggage or an extension of your mind?

That's the central question facing a federal appeals court in a case that could sharply limit the government's ability to snoop into laptop computers carried across the border by American citizens.

The question, before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arose from the prosecution of Michael Timothy Arnold, an American citizen whose laptop was randomly searched in July 2005 at Los Angeles International Airport... In June 2006, a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California threw out the evidence, finding that customs officials must have at least "reasonable suspicion" to begin prying into the contents of an electronic storage device, a decision the government is now appealing.

"Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory," Judge Dean Pregerson wrote. "They are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound. Therefore, government intrusions into the mind -- specifically those that would cause fear or apprehension in a reasonable person -- are no less deserving of Fourth Amendment scrutiny than intrusions that are physical in nature."

The US government disagrees: "If allowed to stand, the district court's decision will seriously undermine the nation's vital interest in protecting its borders by removing the significant deterrent effect of suspicionless searches."

Priceless. Do check out the rest of the article here (just catching up on my Wired feed). The case is due to be argued later this year.


LOL. Looks like a lawyer got his hands on the works of the late communications theorist and media darling Marshall McLuhan. He thought that the best way to think of technologies was that they extended the capabilities of parts of our our bodies, e.g. shovel=hands, car=feet, telescope=eyes. He actually coined the term "media" in its current usage -- it's the name he gave the new (at the time) electronic pathways for communication to complement words like speech, writing, and printing. I suppose we could say that a lawyer is an extension of a headache. (Steve Boriss, TheFuture

Ha, ha, ha... I'm vaguely familiar with some of McLuhan's work, but not that part. I know he was a hopeless materialist, philosophically speaking, but I do love the way Neil Postman applies McLuhan in "Amusing ourselves to death" and find it interesting to look at how a medium structures aspects of how we see the world, the way we communicate, our epistemology to some extent. A few musings on that here:

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