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EFF To Fight Border Agent Laptop Searches

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the our-laptops-ourselves dept.

Privacy 324

snydeq writes "The EFF and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives have filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals requesting that the full court rehear and reverse a three-judge ruling (PDF) that empowers border agents routinely to search files on laptops and mobile devices. The case in question involves US citizen Michael Arnold, who, returning from the Philippines in July 2005, had his laptop confiscated at LAX by custom officials after they opened files in folders marked 'Kodak Pictures' and 'Kodak Memories' and found photos of two naked women. Later, when Arnold was detained, officials uncovered photo files on Arnold's laptop that they believed to be child pornography. In addition to raising Fourth Amendment issues, the amicus brief (PDF) reiterates the previous District Court ruling on Arnold's case regarding the difference between computers and gas tanks, suitcases, and other closed containers, 'because laptops routinely contain vast amounts of the most personal information about people's lives — not to mention privileged legal communications, reporters' notes from confidential sources, trade secrets, and other privileged information.'"

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Seizure the real problem (4, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776423)

I don't see the search itself as being as much of a problem as his laptop being seized because of two (presumably legal, as the article says women, and the alleged children came later) porn images.

Re:Seizure the real problem (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776559)

It is assuming that an information can be of danger to the state. That and the fact that they won't disclose to you what they are searching for. Maybe this guy don't want the police to know that he has two naked pictures on his laptop, maybe (who knows ?) one of this women is one of the agent's daughter. Maybe the other agent is an ultra-catholic who will just use his (PATRIOT-act given) powers to harass this guy because of pictures he finds immoral ?

In a perfect world, search wouldn't be a problem. Privacy rights exist because police agents, custom agents, administrative officials are all fallible humans that are allowed to have weird opinions, small IQ, various beliefs and can usually be bribed.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Informative)

goaliemn (19761) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776785)

This has nothing to do with the Patriot act.. they've always had this power at the border. Courts, for decades, if not over 100 years, have always ruled you have limited/almost no rights at the border. US citizen or not..

Customs has the right to look for anything that could be against US Law, as well as looking for imports to collect duty and taxes on. They always have. Its just now, people are carrying more with them and on their laptops than before.

Do the limits need to be updated? Maybe somewhat, but I'd still want customs to have the authority/ability to do their job.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777141)

What is their job again ? To check that goods entering are legit and that people entering are legit. Information that you have to CARRY are not trade goods but private data that you can't easily prevent carrying. They may revel some past criminal activity from their owner but determining this is the role of a court, not a custom authority. A custom only has to stop known criminals.

And if you want, I can elaborate on why separating judgment and enforcement of a judgment are activities that must be carried by different organizations.

Re:Seizure the real problem (3, Informative)

sam0vi (985269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776849)

i will say this for the very last time: TrueCrypt hidden volumes. and you will be done with the problem. period.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Insightful)

Falstius (963333) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777041)

Privacy is not a right the limited to the technical elite. The proverbial 'grandma' should be able to expect crossing the border to "just work" without having to set up full disk encryption (which if discovered they would detain you for until you unlock it, so you need to know how to hide it and then make a second dummy installation for them to discover and this really all sounds like a bunch of bullshit to go through when you think about it). The solution is to demand our individual rights, not to hide behind technological barriers.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777071)

No, you won't be done with this problem at all. You're still complicit in the stomping of the privacy rights of U.S. citizens. It will get worse, I assure you.

I'm not saying encryption is a bad practice (hell, my workstation's partititions are *all* encrypted). I'm simply saying that finding a way around the system isn't a suitable replacement for long term efforts to fight it.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23777007)

In a perfect world, search wouldn't be a problem. Privacy rights exist because police agents, custom agents, administrative officials are all fallible humans that are allowed to have weird opinions, small IQ, various beliefs and can usually be bribed.
I agree with you in principle, but I would argue that any "rights" exist on a much stronger basis than "to protect us."

A right is a fundamental, inherent to the existence of a human being. You have the RIGHT to live, not to protect you from someone taking that right away form you, but because here you are.

Privacy PROTECTIONS exists because any and all people in a position of power have opportunity to abuse their authority for personal gain, thus violating your RIGHT to privacy.

You could as well say the Constitution grants you rights. This isn't true at all. There are no Constitutionally granted rights, only Constitutionally protected ones.

I know this sounds like quibbling over semantics, but I think there's an important fundamental distinction here.

Now I'll climb off my soapbox.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Informative)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777119)

Outstanding points. Unfortunately, our children are routinely taught in grade school that rights are somthing *given* to us by goverment officials. Even the average teenager (at least many I've spoken to) seem to think it's well within the government's power to take away your rights whenever it's "justified." They also seem to run with the general opinion that bad things won't happen to them; things like illegal searches only happen to "real criminals." Scary stuff.

Re:Seizure the real problem (3, Insightful)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776699)

That's really dangerous thinking, along the lines of "You have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide, so random and indiscriminate searches are okay".

There's a reason why we have privacy laws. The border agents here have really overstepped their bounds.

Re:Seizure the real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23777023)

Spoken like someone either from the UK or "down under" where you are warped by your excessive government control and oppression.

Sorry, but no. Anything more than a physical screening (ie. making sure the laptop isn't a weapon) is ridiculous. This is why I use TrueCrypt on my laptop. If the government wants to start violating constitutional rights in the name of false security, then I'll just encrypt and hide my shit.

Re:Seizure the real problem (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777175)

Hiding and encrypting your data is a good idea in general, even when not crossing the border. Here's the problem, though... how long until the mere presence of any encryption software whatsoever is taken as open permission to confiscate your gear until you feel like giving them the passphases they want? Who says you'll ever get it back at all, or won't wind up on a watch list? Aggresive legal measures need to be taken now to stop this crap.

To me, the most idiotic part is the fact that anyone sufficiently sophisticated to harbor a lot of illegal information, or information deemed dangerous to national security, would most likely be smart enough to send it over the net to its intended destination via an encrypted link. Oh, wait... does that mean the government will start considering data streams entering our country as liable to unquestioned search? Think about it.

Bad Case (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776441)

While I agree with the privacy infringements, I really wish it wasn't someone suspected on child porn complaining about it. It certainly won't garner much support from the general public, informed or not.

Re:Bad Case (5, Insightful)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776521)

What it really takes to get this child porn nonsense to stop is that finally somebody important (CEO of large company, politician of major party) will be framed with some.

Until then, you can't even discuss the issue without being suspected of being a perv.

Re:Bad Case (4, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776637)

What it really takes to get this child porn nonsense to stop is that finally somebody important (CEO of large company, politician of major party) will be framed with some.

If kiddo pix were found on one major political figure's desktop, that figure would be sent to jail and everyone would just shrug. Think of all the recent "family values" politicos who are simply erased with a shrug or lambasted for hypocrisy. Some of them may be innocent for all we know, but we're so jaded that hypocrisy is easier to explain than a frame-up.

Your plan would only work if the ones who framed a politician then came clean immediately afterward with PROOF of HOW they framed them, and more convincingly, framing two opposing figures at roughly the same time with different methods. At that point, when proving it was false to begin with, hit hard on the "if you've got nothing to hide" nonsense. Of course, if you plan to do such a campaign, you had better be able to remain firmly unfindable. Or you will be found hanging in your garden shed with a very convincing suicide note.

Re:Bad Case (4, Insightful)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777089)

What it will take to get this stopped is an innocent father or mother who is detained because they have a picture of their baby's first bath on the computer.

What's absurd these days is that parents are being investigated as child pornographers for baby bath pictures.

Re:Bad Case (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776663)

help!i have virii on my lunix boxen!!

Re:Bad Case (5, Insightful)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776605)

Well true, but two naked photos of grown women (I assume that's what the initial search uncovered) do not constitute "probable cause" to search for kiddie porn.

It's a fluke, from what I've understood of this case so far, that they uncovered child porn in the first place. The problem I have is that the "search" of the laptop initially produced something unrelated to a search for kiddie porn. Nudity != perverse pictures of children.

Even though this particular case shows a "positive" from the investigation, we need people to realize that in our system of justice and freedom the ends do not justify the means. We have protections and guaranteed rights (not granted ones) because we are protecting people from the system's possible abuses. We grant them power but never in exchange for our rights and freedoms. That is a common misconception of the "great unwashed" and it's up to us (and the EFF is helping) to educate people.

We need to focus away from the actual child porn found and focus on how they got to that... If we don't, the end result will become the justification, and like The Patriot Act, we'll be stuck with something that endangers us all.

Re:Bad Case (5, Insightful)

elp (45629) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776629)

Thats why child porn is so great for false accusations. You accuse someone of it and its almost impossible to prove your innocence. If you are feeling brave or you live in a slightly more chilled country search P2P for the R Kelly child porn video. She doesn't look or act even slightly underage but to anyone who hasn't seen it R Kelly is instantly an evil child molester and pornographer.

Re:Bad Case (2, Interesting)

gyranthir (995837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776713)

Public support or not, protection of privacy and protection from illegal seizure are protected rights.

It's a sick sad world we live in and even if this guy was caught with whatever illegal stuff, if it was uncovered illegally he cannot be tried for it. (whatever he had probably wasn't illegal, just the media spinning it whatever way they want to sensationalize the story)

Lock stock and barrel searchs of someones laptop or other electronic device based on that it "could contain" illegal materials, is about a hollow a reason to prosecute someone that "makes available" copy righted content.

They (the privacy violators) should need a reasonable suspicion to search, or a search warrant, or all evidences acquired will be subject to the "exclusionary rule".

The more I read, the more this world is turning into 1984.

Re:Bad Case (3, Informative)

Harin_Teb (1005123) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776805)

There is not now, nor has there ever been a right to privacy at border crossings... unwarranted searches at border crossings is standard practice, and has been for a while, and has been upheld as being constitutional. Now the seizure resulting from the described image may or may not have been legal, we don't know enough facts to determine if the standard was met.

I for one agree with the governments analogy of computers to papers. If you want to encrypt your handwritten papers that would be fine, likewise if you encrypt your data it is fine, but the government still gets to look at it when you enter the country (Note that does not mean you are bound to give them the decryption key).

Re:Bad Case (1)

_LORAX_ (4790) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777139)

The problem is you must have standing to bring the case in the first place. In order to have strong standing you have to be harmed by the actions of the government. I can't think of very many other cases where a person would be harmed and would want to take it before a judge. If you lost confidential information or trade secrets to a border agent would you really want to make it know to the world? If you lost a laptop to customs would it really be worth the years of litigation to prove a point?

Yes, I wish it was something more benign, but this is a vary real person with a legitimate gripe about the use of illegally seized evidence being used to try and convict him in a criminal case.

Strong encryption for personal data (4, Interesting)

pegr (46683) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776445)

Strong encryption is obviously the answer to keeping data safe from prying eyes. What I don't think is legal is the government keeping an image of the disk just for having passewd through customs with encrypted data.

Re:Strong encryption for personal data (5, Insightful)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776631)

Strong encryption is an answer, not the answer. In this particular case, there should have been no need for any encryption: computer data should not be searchable without a warrant or probable cause. And no, "I need to see if you're carrying pictures of naked kids" is not probable cause without substantive evidence of wrongdoing.

Re:Strong encryption for personal data (3, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776873)

...computer data should not be searchable without a warrant or probable cause...
I agree completely.

The traditional notions of privacy are no longer sufficient. We need a legal affirmation of privacy as a right here in America. It has thus far been assumed that one is entitled to privacy in your own home, as is reflected in the constitution, but our lives have extended WAY beyond that. In this age of instant global connections we need to attach privacy to the INDIVIDUAL - not merely that individual's home - and follow the notion through to every end of that individual's life.

Child pornography, though quite despicable, is NOT a border-control issue. I cannot imagine ANY kind of porn that would be such. In fact, I can't picture any kind of information that would fall under a border guard's purview at all. Think about it: If the same data could travel freely from state to state over the wire, what kind of restriction should one apply at the border?

No, there is no good reason for such a search, and it is only being allowed because our citizens have no right to privacy. If there were such a right, the need to respect it would greatly outweigh some bored TSA's curiosity.

Re:Strong encryption for personal data (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777033)

We need a legal affirmation of privacy as a right here in America.
Griswold v. Conneticut provides an explicit statement of the implicit right.

Child pornography, though quite despicable, is NOT a border-control issue.

Now, here I disagree ... sort of. Border patrol agents are law enforcement agents: if they have a court order, or a warrant, to search a particular person's laptop, they are then authorized to do so. However, I quite agree that laptop contents should not be searchable without court authority.

Re:Strong encryption for personal data (1)

Natrous SPE (975012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776731)

I thought there was a ruling somewhere that you are not covered by the 5th amendment if you do not tell them your password.

Re:Strong encryption for personal data (2, Insightful)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776743)

There are lots of good reasons to encrypt the data on your laptop, but keeping it from the eyes of U.S. customs agents is not one of those reasons. Because that customs agent will say "assume the position and supply the password!" and if you refuse, he/she will just confiscate the laptop or deny you entry to the country (note: "logical or") - oh, and you might get a body cavity search too just for good measure.

I don't understand the argument (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776447)

I would rather they couldn't search laptops, but I don't understand the argument put forward here. For example, if I had "privileged legal communications" in my suitcase they could still open it, right?

Re:I don't understand the argument (4, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776485)

I would rather they couldn't search laptops, but I don't understand the argument put forward here. For example, if I had "privileged legal communications" in my suitcase they could still open it, right?
The reason they can search your suitcase is that it might have a bomb in it. Of course, I think that violates the 4th Amendment too (and I think many would agree), but I understand their point.

OTOH, a file on the HDD can't contain a real bomb, only a virtual bomb. Virtual bombs don't blow up airplanes.

Re:I don't understand the argument (5, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776525)

The reason they can search your suitcase is that it might have a bomb in it.



Customs doesn't search for bombs. They search for anything that is illegal to bring into the country (drugs, weapons, large amounts of cash without proper paperwork, certain kinds of foodstuffs, etc).

Re:I don't understand the argument (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776891)

doesn't the X-Ray machines you pass your bags through show up most of this stuff anyway? and if something suspicious pops up on the X-Ray screen then Customs have probably cause to open the bags. Also the difference between the laptop and a suitcase is that the can't take your suitcase away and photocopy / photograph the entire contents without proper cause. They can take an entire copy of your Hard Drive off of your laptop for no reason.

Re:I don't understand the argument (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776941)

doesn't the X-Ray machines you pass your bags through show up most of this stuff anyway?

Your bags don't get sent through x-ray machines after you've landed.

Customs Agents != TSA (5, Informative)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776689)

This is about border agents, so it has nothing to do with bombs. It is about illegal or undeclared goods being smuggled into the country.

So the argument will go that as long as certain forms of information are illegal to bring into the country, in order to do their job (stopping smugglers) the customs agents need to be able to search for illegal information. I'm not saying I agree with that argument, but in order to convince anyone other than the choir you need to understand the real issues and not some straw man argument about bombs.

Any counter argument will have to indirectly argue that customs agents don't have to keep illegal data out of the country. For copyright, such an argument is easy to make (e.g. "customs agents have no way to tell if a work on a laptop is involved in criminal infringement they may have permission from the copyright holder or it may be fair use"). For child porn, the argument is harder. The court will likely end up weighing the cost of invading people's privacy against the benefit of stopping child porn at the border. Given that the technique has already proven effective (they caught the guy), guess which one the courts will side with.

Again I'm not saying I agree with the government's position, but you have to know your enemy and the battle ground in order to win.

Re:Customs Agents != TSA (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776881)

The court will likely end up weighing the cost of invading people's privacy against the benefit of stopping child porn at the border. Given that the technique has already proven effective (they caught the guy), guess which one the courts will side with.

But of course there ISN'T any benefit. There are many other ways of transmitting images from one country to another, securely, aside from putting them on a laptop hard disk and carrying it on a plane. Obviously this does nothing to protect the innocent citizens of the country the perve is entering. Sure, you caught a guy with naughty, perhaps even illegal, images. So what? That does not justify random fishing expedition searches. The same argument would allow the police to have the power to enter any office or home and examine anyone's computer, when no doubt they'd find all kinds of illegal things.

Re:Customs Agents != TSA (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776935)

This is about border agents, so it has nothing to do with bombs. It is about illegal or undeclared goods being smuggled into the country.

Well, let's face it. Rightly or wrongly, border agents have become the "first line of defense" for the security apparatchik -- they cover much more than undeclared good and duties.

Governments have made their function much more about securing the borders and keeping out people we don't want lately. And, consequently, their searches have become much more invasive.

Cheers

Re:I don't understand the argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776723)

Virtual bombs don't blow up airplanes.
Not yet anyway, maybe later. [slashdot.org]

Re:I don't understand the argument (1)

querist (97166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776957)

The difference here, though, is that they can look at a file folder, see paper, an realize that there is no bomb. In theory, their search should stop there. Unless they have a specific reason to read the documents, they shouldn't.

On the computer, however, they are looking at the content of the files to try to find "suspicious" materials. This is a more difficult situation because, in order to differentiate between "acceptable" and "suspicious", they must examine the contents of the files. This is not as simple as looking for a timer, wires, and a blob of explosive material in a suitcase.

Let me offer a similar, non-computer example.

Your car is pulled over, and the officer has reasonable cause to suspect that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. The officer is allowed, required, and in good common sense would, look around the inside of your car to be sure you don't have any weapons.

What if, in the course of that examination, the officer finds the makings of a bomb, an automatic weapon, a large quantity of clearly illegal drugs, or obvious child pornography? Can the officer act on that discovery even though that had nothing to do with the original reason to search? Yes, I suspect that the officer would be able to act. (IANAL)

When searching a computer for suspicious materials, the contents of files must be examined. During this search, similar to the hypothetical example above, the agent finds something suspicious. Remember, in many Asian countries, the women tend to be smaller in all ways than women of European descent. To someone unfamiliar with Asian women, they _may_ appear to be "underage".

Based on that initial, uninformed assessment, the agent would then proceed under the suspicion that there was "child porn" on the machine.

Unfortunately, this makes sense.

The issue is that the laws were created, and for the most part work, in a world that did not include portable computers and digital media. The laws have not caught up with the current world, and people are suffering for it.

Re:I don't understand the argument (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777149)

There's a difference between opening up your laptop and taking a look, versus taking a copy to investigate later or, as in this case, confiscating the laptop.

The idea that they need to search for "illegal information" seems rather odd to me anyway - if someone wanted to bring in child abuse images, surely they would use less risky ways than passing them through customs? It seems more like a fishing expedition to get people for anything that happens to be dodgy on their hard disk.

What happens if a US traveller goes to a country that has less than liberal laws on adult images - perhaps that private image of your girlfriend tucked away on your laptop isn't legal there, or perhaps that video is banned? It's the information equivalent of people being imprisoned for poppy seeds in food and over the counter drugs [independent.co.uk] , with the difference that it's a lot harder to make sure your laptop is scrubbed of everything that might be illegal in that country, compared with simply not taking physical objects (unless you don't take the laptop at all, which'd be simpler, but also a significant cost).

Good luck with that one! LOL! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776453)

Run from phantom, non-existent terrorists hiding around every corner! Privacy was such a nice concept, now appears to very quaint today. I would love to take my kids to Disneyland ( although I hate bloody Disney!), no way I am going anywhere near the US. My Missus and I would love to visit her brother, who she hasn't seen in 9 years, apart from over a grainy webcam, but there's is no way until those in control in the US, get a fecking grip on reality and stop treating everyone without a US passport like Bin Laden's favourite, every time we want fun-in-the-sun! I wish the EFF good luck, but somehow, the paranoics in charge of the US, will shoot this down in a flash.

Re:Good luck with that one! LOL! (2, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776549)

Dude, this was AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. They treat us like Bin Laden's favorite, too.

Re:Good luck with that one! LOL! (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776655)

Dude, this was AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. They treat us like Bin Laden's favorite, too.
Right. It's not about paranoia regarding 9/11 or anything else. It's about control. Scare everyone to death, make everyone walk around with papers, take away everyone's rights and tell them it has it's for their own protection against the big, bad ugly terrorists.

Anyone know the last time this tactic was used? Oh yeah, Nazi Germany.

(first Godwin!)

Re:Good luck with that one! LOL! (2, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776795)

I agree wholeheartedly. I used to be a Republican until they started taking away rights not 'for the babies' as the left does, but in the name of 'the war on terror'. My own government is the only organization terrorizing me.


They're turning me into a real conspiracy theorist, let me tell you.


Oceania at war with East Asia, no Eurasia, anyone?

Re:Good luck with that one! LOL! (1)

sukotto (122876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776911)

No, this is the "good" treatment. If they think you might be Bin Laden's favorite then they disappear you and you're never heard from again (Except maybe in a show trial with secret evidence and/or information they acquired by torturing you)

America has become a scary place.

Re:Good luck with that one! LOL! (1)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776781)

Um, have you been to Heathrow? That place is as scary and gives off the impression of totalitarian authority as much as any US airport.

My favorite is the polite recording that plays every few minutes that says "unattended baggage will be . . . destroyed".

ZOMG Naked people! (1, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776457)

He's got NAKED PEOPLE on his laptop! Detain him!

Seriously, the ruling is un-Constitutional and clearly in violation of the 4th Amendment. Maybe it's time we start asserting our 2nd Amendment rights.

Do they really have a right? (3, Interesting)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776463)

Can't I just refuse to let them access my laptop? Sure, they can turn it on to prove that it's really a laptop and not a bomb, but besides that they shouldn't be allowed to go through photos of me giving my 6 month old son a bath.

Personally, what I'm more worried about is that the pillock on customs manages to erase data from my computer / SD card.

Re:Do they really have a right? (-1, Troll)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776537)

Can't I just refuse to let them access my laptop? Sure, they can turn it on to prove that it's really a laptop and not a bomb, but besides that they shouldn't be allowed to go through photos of me giving my 6 month old son a b
hihihi...

hi

ath.
o, how boring

Re:Do they really have a right? (3, Insightful)

jeti (105266) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776701)

AFAIK you're free to refuse. But you won't be allowed to enter the US.

Re:Do they really have a right? (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776961)

I think if you refuse to start the laptop or refuse to give them the password to log on, then they can take the laptop off of you, or refuse you entry to/ exit from, the US. They will probably take the laptop off you and copy the entire contents, if you're lucky you'll get the laptop back in 6 months...

It was never a problem before. (5, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776467)

In the past, the time before computers, you never traveled with all your personel papers, love letters, note books, and your corporate trade secrets in your luguage because the border gaurds would be searching your stuff and possible reading it. So why is storing it on a computer so different. If you do not want it looked at don't put it there.

Re:It was never a problem before. (0, Offtopic)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776625)

And these things happened before the days of computers. There was a case where a pair of teenagers who had watched a TV interview with a Playboy photographer, had decided to do their own photo-shoot. Unfortunately, they lived in a Christian fundamentalist area in the deep South, and when they had the photographs developed, the lab technician took offence and called in the Police. The guy was arrested for underage porn.

Re:It was never a problem before. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776685)

The guy was arrested for underage porn.
Which guy? The lab technician?

Re:It was never a problem before. (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776643)

you never traveled with all your personel papers, love letters, note books, and your corporate trade secrets in your luguage because the border gaurds would be searching your stuff and possible reading it. So why is storing it on a computer so different.

Because I can't realistically take the contents of my desk, my filing cabinet, my credenza, my photo albums, and my "memento box" with me every time I decide to take a quick trip to Montreal.

I can, however, take my laptop.

Similarly, while I don't need to take all those physical things to do an on-site service call for an important Canadian customer, I absolutely do need to take my laptop.

Re:It was never a problem before. (0)

corbettw (214229) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777121)

Then store that stuff on a server, and only keep your OS and the applications needed to read those files installed on your laptop. How hard is that?

Re:It was never a problem before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776675)

So why is storing it on a computer so different. If you do not want it looked at don't put it there.
What's the point of having a computer if you can't use it to store anything remotely useful to your job, career, or company?

In Soviet Russia... (1)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776783)

Is not problem, comrade! If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear!

Re:It was never a problem before. (2, Insightful)

SlashTon (871960) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776925)

Times change. It wasn't a problem in "the time before computers", because it was not possible (or at least not very practical) then to carry all your personal papers. And even then some people did travel, carrying private papers or letters. And I suspect back then you could reasonably expect these papers NOT to be "routinely" (an important phrase in this whole discussion) read by border 'gaurds' (people, Slashdot has an automated spell checker, use it, please). Because of changes in technology and society, people now can and often have to (business trips) store this kind of information on laptops.

Why should it be considered a routine matter for a border agent to be able to access all personal data, when it is not even a routine matter for the police to get this access? Yes yes, entering a country, import restrictions and all that. My point is that I agree with the EFF on this that it should not simply be considered equal to searching a briefcase or gas tank. This whole subject requires very careful consideration.

Re:It was never a problem before. (2, Interesting)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777157)

Your comment basically says "don't take advantage of new, convenient technologies because someone wants to do something they have no need of doing".

That's a horrible idea, and I don't see how anyone in this audience found it insightful. Putting personal pictures on a business laptop, or including financial information on a business notebook because the institution is only open at the same hours you are at work - these seem like reasonable uses of modern technology.

If anything, items such as you described are more secure now, because you typically need to log in, then find a document, and open it up - not accidentally read it when it pops out of one of your hundred pockets, or come across it when looking for something that can explode.

So what would I do... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776481)

...with my company laptop which I will bring with me this monday ? Should I let it be searched by customs, or should I call the legal department of my (very large) company to handle the situation ?

As this is on topic here, some advice would be nice :)

Re:So what would I do... (4, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776551)

...with my company laptop which I will bring with me this monday ?

Don't bring it with you. Or don't have any important information on it.

Should I let it be searched by customs, or should I call the legal department of my (very large) company to handle the situation ?

To answer this question, first consider this simple question: Who will the customs officer detain/subject to full cavity search/deport/mark for disappearance - the person carrying the object in question or some companys legal department ?

Re:So what would I do... (4, Informative)

dthomas9 (817297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776583)

You ask your legal department for advice, before you travel.

Re:So what would I do... (2, Informative)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776729)

If you are not flying internationally, this doesn't effect you. This is about customs agents, not the TSA.

If you are flying internationally, consult your companies legal department before you leave. At the very least it may raise awareness in the company that this might be a problem and if companies start to dislike the idea maybe they can get it changed.

Schneier says... (5, Informative)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776739)

Bruce Schneier's recommendation for this situation is that your company have a secure VPN in place so that once you're across the border you can connect to the office and download any sensitive material you need. Before you return, VPN in again and upload your work back to the office so that the laptop is clean as a whistle when it goes through customs.

Re:Schneier says... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776851)

Bruce Schneier's recommendation for this situation is that your company have a secure VPN in place so that once you're across the border you can connect to the office and download any sensitive material you need. Before you return, VPN in again and upload your work back to the office so that the laptop is clean as a whistle when it goes through customs.
But how do you stop customs cloning the VPN key at the border?

Re:So what would I do... (2, Interesting)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776885)

Depends. Would your company's legal department and bosses back you up here? If so, call 'em. The border agents might detain you, have you arrested, throw you in jail, give you a file with homeland security (I mean, a negitive file) etc. etc.

If you're willing to go through all of that, and know that your company won't leave you high and dry, then call 'em. Otherwise, no.

Re:So what would I do... (1)

sukotto (122876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776981)

You use GNU Shred to wipe all the data off.
After you arrive in the US, you connect to your corporate intranet via VPN and download the stuff you need.

This makes it hard to get anything done on the plane though.

If you're really security conscious, you'll encrypt the stuff you download or you'll keep everything on the corp intranet and only have the apps on the laptop.

Oh, and make sure you set all your applications to request your password when they start up (that goes for online resources too). Otherwise they can easily browse to your email just by turning on your machine.

Let me know how that goes (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776501)

The EFF and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives have quite the fight on their hands.

Really all the government has to do is use the branding of we are looking for child pornography terriosts that have weapons of mass destruction and guess what, poof there goes any right to privacy. Right now, they pretty much have a free ticket to do just about what ever they please.

Every time I hear stories similar to this I think back to an episode of the Simpsons, where Helen Lovejoy keeps saying, "Won't somebody think of the childern?" It was satire that they would do just about anything, if it was for the childern.

Historians will look back on two things this decade, how hurricane katrina changed how oil companies charge people for gas (they can also do just about anything they want) and how 9/11 affected personal freedoms and privacy.

Waiting for another Geek Squad incident... (5, Insightful)

FataL187 (1100851) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776523)

I wonder how long it will be before we hear about how the customs agents have a shared collection of porn from all the hard drives they search.

Boot to command line (5, Funny)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776563)

Clearly these people are stupid enough to think that my mouthwash and nail clippers are lethal weapons.

I doubt they have the faintest idea what to do when confronted with a command line.

"How do you start windows?"

Re:Boot to command line (5, Insightful)

robot_love (1089921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776665)

Let's say you do that.

Which of the following two scenarios is more likely:

1. Government official says, "this guy is obviously a smart ass. I'd better just give him back his things and let him go."

2. Government offiical says, "this guy is a smart ass. I'd better confiscate his computer permanently."

I mean, I realize it's funny to say they won't know how to deal with a command prompt, but if you think that their ignorance will lead to them leaving you to pass unmolested, you're being hopelessly naive. You might as well suggest that if you simply put a lock on your briefcase and claim you don't have the keys they're going to wave you right through.

No. No they're not going to do that. You won't like what they're going to do.

Re:Boot to command line (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777015)

"I only use this machine as an input output device for work, it doesn't run windows."

$9.00 per hour TSA Agent nods

But I have to throw out the mouthwash, right?

Yes Sir, I'm sorry.

No problem.

Have a nice day.

Re:Boot to command line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776695)

I doubt they have the faintest idea what to do when confronted with a command line.
I'm pretty sure they know what to do... and I'm pretty sure you won't enjoy it.

It will be something along the lines of "detain this traveler until we can figure out what's going on."

Re:Boot to command line (1)

qbast (1265706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776725)

Oh, they do. Detain you until specialists arrive.

Re:Boot to command line (4, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776767)

Better yet when they get that command line and they come to you asking what to do, start screaming at them "What did you do to my computer?! YOU BROKE MY WINDOWS!"

-

Border agents != TSA (1)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776813)

As posted ad nauseum above, the guys inspecting your stuff when you cross the border are not the same guys who make you take off your shoes to get on a plane.

Pervs/terrorists/spys never buy thumb drives (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776619)

or other such media.

They teach this in PTS school.

Paranoia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776633)

Later, when Arnold was detained...

So let me get this straight, he was detained for having pictures of naked people on his laptop? What the hell has that to do with the security of the flight? Or terrorism? I'm truly in awe of what's happened in the age of terrorist paranoia.

Re:Paranoia (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776677)

What the hell has that to do with the security of the flight?

Nothing. And that's perfectly ok - customs doesn't care about the security of flights, because they search your stuff after the flight is over. They're looking for things that are illegal to bring into the country (narcotics, weapons, large amounts of cash without proper paperwork, certain kinds of foodstuffs, etc).

Re:Paranoia (1)

Mattsson (105422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776963)

But what files is illegal to bring into the US?
Well, child-porn is obvious... But that can't be the only thing they look for, right?
What else?

That Eeee pc looks better and better (4, Insightful)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776639)

The time is coming that using a 'throw away' laptop will be needed for all foreign trips. Everyone will need a server in some 'safe' country to upload everything to, documents and pictures will be needed to be uploaded to Google Docs and Picasa respectively. Any pictures, or letters that were on the laptop will need to be deep erased.

then , just add the cost of having the mini laptop seized to every trip.

Seems simple to me.

 

Re:That Eeee pc looks better and better (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776777)

The time is coming that using a 'throw away' laptop will be needed for all foreign trips. Everyone will need a server in some 'safe' country to upload everything to, documents and pictures will be needed to be uploaded to Google Docs and Picasa respectively. Any pictures, or letters that were on the laptop will need to be deep erased.
But to access your information store with any decent level of security you still need to carry a secret across a border. If the secret is a GPG key they can still try to get the passphrase off you, then when you access your data they can intercept the data stream and decrypt it.

I don't think this method is more than a stopgap.

I told you so (4, Interesting)

bytesex (112972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776647)

I've said it before; trade secrets will be the most important aspect of this (whether or not they should be is of minor importance); especially for foreign business travelers, since American intelligence agencies have shown themselves time and again incapable to contain themselves when it comes to passing around business secrets to local competitors.

Re:I told you so (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776807)

I've said it before; trade secrets will be the most important aspect of this (whether or not they should be is of minor importance); especially for foreign business travelers, since American intelligence agencies have shown themselves time and again incapable to contain themselves when it comes to passing around business secrets to local competitors.
The secret you are carrying might actually be US government IP, which you are just not allowed to show to the people at the border, even though they work for the same organisation.

And why not (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776703)

also browsing the traveller's books, post-its (tm), cameras, camcorders, USB sticks, cell phone memory ... and so on?

Re:And why not (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776719)

also browsing the traveller's books, post-its (tm), cameras, camcorders, USB sticks, cell phone memory ... and so on?

They're already doing that, too. Oops.

Re:And why not (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777003)

Don't think so: it'd take hours to check a single passenger. And skills, technology and ... a brain.

Re:And why not (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777053)

Don't think so:

Oh really ?

http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/90325 [yahoo.com]

And they're not checking every single passenger, of course. But for the ones that do get checked, the procedure may take hours.

One word... (1)

physman_wiu (933339) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776705)

SuperDisk
I doubt they have the equipment just laying around to pull the data off of those suckers.

Common Sense (1)

rock56501 (1301287) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776707)

While I don't agree with them searching people's laptops, people should be taking precautionary measures anyways like have Truecrypt partitions. Atleast then if your laptop gets stolen or lost (not like we have never heard of that before), your information might be protected.

Or to give the customs personnel a hard time, have your computer boot into your favorite Linux OS!

Or just dual-boot. (2, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776815)

Boot into a dummy partition containing Windows 95 or some damn thing, leave a few scattered icons of "business.xls" or "memo.doc" around, and let them search the hell out of it. Meanwhile your real stuff is safely tucked away on the rest of the drive.

"That's right officer, there is only a 100 meg hard drive in this brand-new Thinkpad. Want to play Microsoft Hearts with me, or perhaps sign up for a free trial of Prodigy?"

Re:Or just dual-boot. (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776947)

Yeah - or install Linux and set it's boot default boot level to 3 (no graphics)
What will they get do when they get to black shell prompt? - Not much
On the other hand, they might think the computer is some kind of bomb and call the FBI.
Hmmm - ok maybe not, that would be a bad backfire.

Career dampner (2, Interesting)

joaommp (685612) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776897)

This is one of the reasons for me to be unwilling to accept any offer to move to the Redmond division. Out of my fundamentalist principle that my data is mine. Nobody has nothing to do with it, especially not without a warrant.
Besides, there have been stories of officials that just want to confiscate the laptops and magically their kids get new laptops for Christmas.
I usually carry around something like $7000 from home to work in equipment. I wouldn't take it near a US border unless the "chair-man" provided me safe passage for that.

Unreasonable searches and seizures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23776921)

Yesterday, in Lewiston, NY, the US customs and border agency decided to pull a stunt where they block off traffic _leaving_ the US down to one lane and individually interrogate people as they left the country -- before they even made it across the bridge to go have a chat with the Canadian customs. Fortunately, I didn't have my laptop with me, but I think this datapoint does show that these border guards are flush with powers that their think they have that they shouldn't. I'd invest in a lifetime supply of microsd cards, condoms, truecrypt, and lube if I were you guys.

Privacy and Cultural Issues (5, Informative)

MBHkewl (807459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23776997)

For Arabs, and Muslims, it's a very big problem, since strangers are allowed to look at private pictures of family members.

This is both a cultural and a religious difference, which this law doesn't address nor respect.

It's against our customs and culture to post our women's pictures online for the public to see, let alone having the customs look at them and take a copy of them as well!!

And what is considered childpr0n, maybe as well be nude pictures of man's 16 year old wife. That's the legal age to get married in some of the countries in the Middle East.

Apart from pictures, business men carry sensitive information, that shouldn't be copied, and if encrypted, they're forced to provide the key/password to decrypt them.
When there's a leak of information, is the US customs going to be responsible for such cases?

Wanted: pictures of border agents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23777075)

... and federal judges in compromising or embarrassing situations.

I'll fill my laptop drive with those.

I'd be happy to have them find those.

4th ammendment (2, Interesting)

methuselah (31331) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777099)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

it pretty much covers this so, i guess that liberalisms creative reading and interpretations of the constitution has pretty much trashed the whole thing now.

First the came for the gypsies

but I was not a gypsy....

Could anyone have... (2, Interesting)

mhelander (1307061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777143)

Shouldn't they ask me something like this in checkin, then: "Is all the information on your laptop yours? Could anyone have tampered with the information on your laptop?" Anyone who has had their laptop online would have to admit that someone very well could have tampered with the information on the laptop. Should that mean they shouldn't fly then? (Which, while a personally untested theory, is what I assumes to be the case should I answer that "Yes, someone could have tampered with the contents of my checkin luggage".) People with laptops clearly shouldn't be let into the country: You never know what they might have on them spooky things, and, as it turns out, neither do they!

*sigh* (2, Insightful)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 6 years ago | (#23777173)

If I had something illegal on my computer, wouldn't plain site be the last place I'd put it? This only catches the dumb criminals and is a problem for everyone else. My laptop takes 10 minutes to boot up now (its old), are they going to back-up the line waiting for it to boot up, then hit search for .jpg and start looking for at best naked pictures of my girlfriend that I forgot to remove years ago?

I mean, if I had some illegal pictures or something, I'd probably just make a .zip file, rename the file extension, then copy it to a digital camera's memory stick and have it on the camera. What's that file? I don't know, must be something the camera needs (not that it would ever get to that point).
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