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Australia Can Search Laptops, Phones for Porn

A spokesperson for the Australian sex industry is warning visitors that local customs officers suddenly have an "unfettered right" search laptops and mobile phones for porn. Apparently Incoming Passenger Cards now ask visitors if they're carrying adult material. Visitors must answer truthfully or face criminal charges if the material is in possession and the answer was marked "No." This means home-made movies in the bedroom or footage of you taking a shower must be reported.

"It's hard to fathom what the pressing concern could be that requires Australia to quiz every entrant to the country on their pornography habits, as if visitors would be aware of the nuances of the Australian classification scheme," said Colin Jacobs, chairman of the Electronic Frontiers Australia lobby group. "If this results in Customs trawling through more private information on laptops searching for contraband, I would say the solution is way worse than the problem."

So what exactly is the problem? Certain forms of pornography are banned from crossing the Australian border, however various groups believe that the question found on the Incoming Passenger Cards is too broad, and should ask more specifics such as "are you carrying child porn" or "are you carrying animal sex porn." Of course, that would be a waste of time--not many people will be comfortable admitting to legalized porn let alone more offensive material.

Despite what the card asks, the big issue is invasion of privacy. “Is it fair that customs officers rummage through someone's luggage and pull out a legal men's magazine or a lesbian journal in front of their children or their mother-in-law?” said Fiona Patten, president of the Australian Sex Party. "If you and your partner have filmed or photographed yourselves making love in an exotic destination or even taking a bath, you will have to answer 'Yes' to the question or you will be breaking the law."

The ASP and EFA are looking into how the new change was put into effect "without any public consultation about the massive privacy issues."