In this article
at the Washington Post they describe the experiences of a few travelers that have their laptops taken and they forced
to type in their passwords so TSA/Customs could search for "information possibly tied to terrorism, narcotics smuggling, child pornography or other criminal activity". The individuals in the article are rightfully concerned about their sensitive data on their electronic devices (Blackberrys, laptops etc) but also proprietary information to their employers. Whats more is one individual never got their laptop back. The cases in the article also bring up questions of racial/religious profiling. The whole notion of "let me read your email or you can't get on this flight" and to quote the article, "the government's laptop-equals-suitcase position" seems awfully ridiculous to me. The worst part of this is that the innocent people are the ones that are hurt. I have nothing to hide but that doesn't mean I want government officials rummaging through my apartment or laptop. Here's an interesting excerpt:
"It's one thing to say it's reasonable for government agents to open your luggage," said David D. Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University. "It's another thing to say it's reasonable for them to read your mind and everything you have thought over the last year. What a laptop records is as personal as a diary but much more extensive. It records every Web site you have searched. Every e-mail you have sent. It's as if you're crossing the border with your home in your suitcase."
If the government's position on searches of electronic files is upheld, new risks will confront anyone who crosses the border with a laptop or other device, said Mark Rasch, a technology security expert with FTI Consulting and a former federal prosecutor. "Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded," he said. "Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line."
I have a business trip this spring, there is a good chance that I will be enabling filesystem encryption
(easily done with Ubuntu at install time) on my machine should they confiscate it. In the end I would rather not get on the flight than hand over my laptop. They not only take your laptop and password, they take your privacy and rights as a US citizen away as well. If this happens to you inside the US, ask for a search warrant before handing anything over.
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