GOING THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY: Laptop contents scrutiny a violation of one’s right
As we all know, when we go to the airport, every belonging we have pass through the X-ray scanner so as to search for dangerous and prohibited items which cannot be carried inside the aircraft. Of course, this includes all electronic devices such as mobile phones, ipods and laptops.
So let’s just say that the airport security asks you to open up your laptop to browse the contents for security checking, what would you do?
Can airport security validly search and browse the contents of your laptop for security purposes, even if the same be a valid search?
No. The airport security cannot validly ask a passenger to open up his laptop and browse the contents thereof. It would be a clear violation of one’s right against self-incrimination, which is guaranteed by our Constitution.
Note that the search being conducted in airports may be considered as “plain view searches,” by the use of X-ray scanners, which means that objects falling in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure even without a search warrant and maybe introduced in evidence. Such applies when the following requisites concur: (a) the law enforcement officer in search of the evidence has a prior justification for an intrusion or is in a position from which he can view a particular area; (b) the discovery of the evidence in plain view is inadvertent; (c) it is immediately apparent to the officer that the item he observes may be evidence of a crime, contraband or otherwise subject to seizure.
We have to bear in mind that the contents of a laptop may never be subject to the “plain view doctrine,” considering the fact that it is never in plain sight. One has to open up the laptop before you can see the contents.
The Constitution also guarantees the right to privacy of correspondence and communication, which such contents of our laptop may fall into. Hence, even if the search may be valid, airport security cannot just browse the contents of your laptop against your will.
 People vs. Doria, G.R. No. 125299, 22 January 1999