Sunday, August 3, 2008

Geek’s gadgets can be seized at U.S. border

A warning for you who love to travel out/in the U.S. and love staring into the eyes of the officers, ohkay I gotta admit that last one is a really dry joke, but this news isn’t. The US Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed a border search policies: 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.

If that hasn’t scare you enough, here are some more additional info: Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The policies state that officers may detain any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form "for a reasonable period of time", in common language translate into: “we can hold on to your precious gadgets as long as we please, and maybe we’ll give it back to you after we finish playing with it”.

So you might be thinking twice to bring your favorite MP3 players and other gadgets like iPods, laptops, smartphones, flash drives, etc. Although the policies say when a review is completed and no probable cause exists to keep the information, any copies of the data must be destroyed. Copies sent to non-federal entities must be returned to DHS. But the documents specify that there is no limitation on authorities keeping written notes or reports about the materials.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said the efforts "do not infringe on Americans' privacy." In a statement submitted to Feingold for a June hearing on the issue, he noted that the executive branch has long had "plenary authority to conduct routine searches and seizures at the border without probable cause or a warrant" to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today that "the most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices." Searches have uncovered "violent jihadist materials" as well as images of child pornography, he wrote.

To tell you the truth, those are not all of the scariest part at all. The scariest thing about the policies is that no suspicion behavior is required for the officers to start taking away our lovely gadgets! Aaaarghh…, the horror!

Sources are from
WashingtonPost, via PCW Business Center.

[blogged with my Treo 750v]

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