Friday, 1 August 2008

US Border control can retain your laptop for an unspecified period of time.

"Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. [...] DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies -- which apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens -- are reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism."

"The policies state that officers may "detain" laptops "for a reasonable period of time" to "review and analyze information." This may take place "absent individualized suspicion."
The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes."

I have two questions:

1) How can they not understand that data can pass their borders far more easily over network connections than on private laptops and CDs carried on planes?

2) Do they seriously expect to click on "Last Viewed Documents" and find "Terrorist_Attack_Plan.pdf"?

1 comment:

  1. i've heard some argue that people should be protected from such warrant-less searches. however, in a similar violation of privacy, customs agents are able to search bags upon entry and exit. (side question: do you suppose traditional boarder policies are meant to ensure airplane safety? or to prevent smuggling? or both?) you could argue this policy is meant to safeguard against the smuggling of ideas, whether it be intellectual property or terrorist plots. however, to patrick's point, such smuggling is easier via the internet and other means.

    the (in)ability of government to control the transfer of ideas is not new. legend has it that britain forbid the export of factory blueprints following its industrial revolution. however, the english factory system was recreated in america from the memory of entrepreneurial english expatriots.

    such a policy doesn't seem very practical for stopping terrorism. a more realistic benefit may reside in the ability of boarder agents to identify those who collect unlawful forms of entertainment, whether it be bootleg music and movies or unlawful pornographic media. but can you imagine if they started confiscating every ipod with illegal mp3s!