Monday, October 20, 2008

AAA Supports Travelers' Privacy Legislation

In addition to a letter sent to Representative Zoe Lofgren in support of her ‘electronic device privacy act of 2008,’ association President Setha Low sent letters to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to express support for Lofgren’s legislation, as well as similar legislation by Representative Adam Smith of Washington and Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Back in April of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal officials—-namely, Custom and Border agents—-can “randomly” search and seize electronic information stored on laptop computers, cameras, cell phones, MP3 players, and other devices without “reasonable suspicion.” This poses obvious risks to anthropologists and their research participants.

We are hoping to get bills that will prevent such border searches on the legislative calendar for 2009, and encourage our readers to contact their Congressperson to express concern about this issue. In the meantime, we advise anthropologists to code all identifiable information, delete electronic information that could be used to identify or harm participants, encrypt any sensitive data, store research in a secure online database, and/or send data electronically instead of carrying it across borders.

Members should contact the AAA if they have been subject to a search without cause for reasonable suspicion.