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U.S. Confiscating Data at the Border

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the keep-your-mitts-off-my-bits dept.

Privacy 630

PizzaFace writes "U.S. Customs agents have long had broad authority to examine the things a person tries to bring into the country, to prevent the importation of contraband. The agents can conduct their searches without a warrant or probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. In recent years, Customs agents have begun using their authority to insist on copying data brought to the border on laptop computers, cell phones and other devices. The government claims that this intelligence-gathering by Customs is the same as looking in a suitcase. In response the EFF is filing a lawsuit attempting to force the government to reveal its policies on border searches. 'The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts. The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics.'"

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Seriously.. (5, Insightful)

log0n (18224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333514)

Police state anyone? Things are getting worse and worse.

Re:Seriously.. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333572)

Police state anyone? Things are getting worse and worse.
When they do that at the state border, then you're talking about a police state. I hope you have your exit visa for California to Nevada.

Re:Seriously.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334134)

Yeah, cuz Gestapo-like behavior is a matter of *quantity*, not quality!

Re:Seriously.. (0, Flamebait)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333584)

Yeah we are so oppressed here, I mean people are getting sentenced to death for drinking alcohol and downloading documents on womens rights. Oh wait that's not us thats Iran and Afghanistan.
Look the great thing about the US is that if you don't like how things are going you get out and vote. The next president might be able to pick three supreme court justices. Think about that when you head to the polls.

Re:Seriously.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333682)

Google "boiling a frog". It might provide some insight as to why this line of thinking is dangerous.

Re:Seriously.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333872)

How about you just tell us what you're talking about, instead of telling us to do a search on Google? If you want us to see your point of view, make an argument, not demand a web search.

Re:Seriously.. (5, Informative)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334020)

How about you just tell us what you're talking about, instead of telling us to do a search on Google? If you want us to see your point of view, make an argument, not demand a web search.
I see two reasons:

1) Explaining takes a lot of time and in this case the explanation has been stated many many times and should be fairly common knowledge to the average Slashdot user.

2) Sending people to look up a piece of data on their own forces them to find the answers for themselves rather than having them spoon fed as is quite common in the current US society. (And other places from what I hear.)

Oh and the boiling frog reference?

When cooking a frog live you put it in a cold pot of water and heat it slowly and the frog doesn't notice the temperature change until it's too late. If you were to just put it in the hot water it would jump out and thus be harder to cook.

The US gooberment is boiling frogs as we speak...

Re:Seriously.. (1)

ShedPlant (1041034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333688)

I agree, but if the two major parties nominate Clinton and McCain, what hope is there of this worrying trend being reversed? This is why I voted for Ron Paul.

Re:Seriously.. (0, Redundant)

Jamu (852752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333712)

'It honestly doesn't occur to them,' said Ford. 'They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.'

'You mean they actually vote for the lizards?'

'Oh yes,' said Ford with a shrug, 'of course.'

'But,' said Arthur, going for the big one again, 'why?'

'Because if they didn't vote for a lizard,' said Ford, 'the wrong lizard might get in.

Still, it's better than living in Iran and Afghanistan.

Re:Seriously.. (4, Insightful)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333714)

Comparing a bad situation to something worse in no means negates or diminishes the badness of the original situation. By your suggested logic, you would never get a raise because there are still people who make less money than you... or are pressed into labor.

And yes, this is one of the more overt practices of a police state. It's even more worrisome when people forget that the very philosophical and documented building blocks of the nation is a piece of paper that restricts the federal government from doing exactly what this article reports:

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.

This cannot be suspended except under marshal law and I've missed that memo if it's been announced. When the government stops recognizing their limitations and begins using forms of law enforcement and fear-mongering to bypass those limitation, then it's most definitely a police state.

Re:Seriously.. (3, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333930)

The current doctrine is focused on the keyword, "unreasonable." It's pretty reasonable to give the once-over to people (citizens and foreign nationals) entering your territory. I totally agree that data mining and archival of my bits is not "reasonable" but this hasn't been tested in the courts yet.

Re:Seriously.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334276)

This cannot be suspended except under marshal law and I've missed that memo if it's been announced.

The United States has been in a federally declared "state of national emergency" since at least 1979, continuously. A large number of Presidential Executive Orders declare such emergencies with respect to specific events such as the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis and diamond smuggling in Sierra Leone, and under the National Emergencies Act these emergencies have officially been renewed over and over. For links to documentation on this assertion, see here [wikipedia.org], second paragraph. I'd like to ask each Presidential candidate whether we should maintain all of these "emergencies."

Re:Seriously.. (5, Insightful)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333774)

While I agree with your sentiment we must remember that a police state rarely happens over night. It's a slow process that is initiated by the people. Folks seem to have forgotten that they ned to protect their own rights, not ask the government to do it for them...

Re:Seriously.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333834)

.. things must have slipped quite far if you have to compare your country to Iran or Afghanistan in order to portray your country in a favourable light.

This (data being copied at the US border) was communicated within my organisation (one of the largest banks in the world) quite some time back. We are no longer allowed to bring work-laptops when entering the US. Meetings were rescheduled to take place in Switzerland instead (sorry people of the US - you'll just have to endure jetlag more than was previously the case).

The US is very rapidly turning into a developing country. What a pity. I do hope that you turn things around and regain the previously held title of "land of the free".
Until then, we (the rest of the world) will be forced to continue reducing our exposure to you as it has turned out to be detrimental to business, economic growth and freedom.

Re:Seriously.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334162)

Until then, we (the rest of the world) will be forced to continue reducing our exposure to you as it has turned out to be detrimental to business, economic growth and freedom.
This might actually be good for Europe. Europe can be the safe and free place to conduct business. I think the American paranoia will end up benefiting us Europeans for quite some time.

Re:Seriously.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333866)

"USA: Always better than ending up in Iran or Afghanistan" doesn't seem so great a motto...

Re:Seriously.. (5, Insightful)

visualight (468005) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334044)


Almost every time an injustice is reported, there's someone to point out how much worse it is some place else, as if that makes everything ok.

If I posted counter examples of countries where people have more freedoms and used that to back up a claim of injustice here, you would probably counter with something like "so move there then..."


The proper response to this crap is to complain loudly, in court if possible, in the streets if not. When someone does so, you cheer them on, support them. Sarcastic comments like yours are "un-american".

Re:Seriously.. (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334242)

Yeah we are so oppressed here,

I guess that's the silver lining. We aren't the _worst_ country in the world yet and aren't likely to be the worst country in the world anytime soon. If that and a shiny piece of string keep you happy.....

The "We're Better Than X" Fallacy (5, Interesting)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334268)

Yeah we are so oppressed here[...] Oh wait that's not us thats Iran and Afghanistan.

Sir, this is a despicable argument.

The point is not that the US is "better" than some dictatorship or chaotic hell-hole.

The point is that the US today is much worse than the country defined by the US Constitution and bravely won by its founding citizens.
To compare the US to a dictatorship or chaotic hell-hole is an insult to every American who has fought and died to protect the ideals of the US Constitution.

As for your right to vote, it's true that the citizens of the US have not yet been asked to relinquish it. Instead, elections are a circus of toadies funded by powerful interests. The US has been brought to its current state by people who were ~elected~. Think about that if you decide that your Constitution expresses ideals worth fighting for and even dying for.

Great people conceived the US Constitution. Brave people have defended it and died defending it. The measure of the success of the US is NOT weather it is better than some dictatorship or chaotic hell-hole. The measure of the success of the US is whether it is the nation that the Constitution intended it to be.

Re:Seriously.. (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333638)

It's getting to the point where im not even sure if they remember *why* they are doing this... its becomming one of those "well, my grandad was %variable%, so was my dad, I guess i'll do it too!"

I wouldnt be surprised if soon when some people resists that they are tried for impairing the policemans freedom to oppress you, and you know, cause it has "free" in it, people will be like "oh, its for freedom, thats ok"... wait, I forgot why we were doing this..."hmm"

Re:Seriously.. (5, Funny)

presarioD (771260) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334284)

carry on citizen! Nothing to see here, the elections(R)[patent pending trademark of Diebold co.] are coming up so you can choose a candidate(TM)[owned by classified (for national security reasons) interests] by pressing an appropriate button at the Diebold Electronic Voting Machine(TM)and provided you've chosen wisely [Diebold co. safeguards your democracy and freedom(TM) for you] there will be the necessary voicing of your concerns about this issue. Once it gets properly acknowledged (>/dev/null) you will be notified. In the meanwhile, abstain from alcohol, pray to Jesus, don't touch children/gay/lesbian people, and don't be a teRRist hating america and our freedom and democracy(TM). We appreciate your business and looking forward to serving you again! Have a nice day!

The above response is an automated response generated by our Complains Department Internet Crawling Machine. You have received this reply because your post scored +5 in the Homeland Security Dissatisfaction Scale(TM). Federal regulations require us to notify you that positive Homeland Security Dissatisfaction Scale(TM) Scores are automatically recorded along with your Unique ID (under Save America From Teh Internets Act anonymity on the internet has been eliminated for your...(stifling a laugh) protection). You might/will receive a notification and/or visit by DHS officers for an interview in order to clarify if you pose a threat to our way of life(TM) and to the safety of our society (silent "sieg heil" salutation in the background).

Same as this? (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333516)

Is this the same deal as this older post on /.?http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/08/1641209 [slashdot.org] I thought the supreme court agreed about the legality of this.

Re:Same as this? (5, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333746)

So if the Supreme Court has agreed to this and the Customs agents are making copies "for security", then the Supreme Court has ruled that making a digital copy is not stealing. When customs searches my bag, they don't get to keep anything form it unless there is something legal there. SO if they are allowed to make a copy, and that doesn't count as seizure of my property, then my digital copy of some music or a movie isn't theft either because I didn't seize any property. I hope EFF uses this in an RIAA case. The best way to take on a bad policy like this is to apply it to as many things as possible. I wonder if I can make a copy of what is on the customs office computer, if having a digital copy isn't a seziure of property.

Pssst... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333928)

You may not have noticed this, but governments generally have rights that don't apply to individuals. For example, the government can legally jail or even kill someone, while you as an individual can not do the same.

Re:Pssst... (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334210)

For example, the government can legally jail or even kill someone

With restrictions such as due process, that is. Unless you're going to come out and say "oh well, the government can jail or kill whoever it wants with impunity". The funny thing is that citizens have similarly restricted rights, for instance, they can kill in self defense.

TrueCrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333534)

Thank heavens for TrueCrypt.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

Syntroxis (564739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333600)

Encrypt your data and go to Gitmo!

Re:TrueCrypt (5, Interesting)

Joe U (443617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333742)


1. There is no encrypted data, I just didn't format that partition yet.
2. There is no encrypted data, that file must be corrupt. What did you do to my computer?
3. Here's the encrypted data, it's a copy of my tax forms for 2006. There is no hidden partition.

Pick one.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

mrogers (85392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334068)

1. We know there's an encrypted file or partition somewhere, you have Truecrypt installed. 2. See 1, and remember, lying to us is a crime. 3. We know Truecrypt supports hidden partitions, we read about it on Slashdot.

Re:TrueCrypt (4, Funny)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334146)

3. Here's the encrypted data, it's a copy of my tax forms for 2006. There is no hidden partition.
4. Holds hand before custom: You: This is not the partition you are looking for Custom: This is not the partition we are looking for.

Re:TrueCrypt (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334166)

Pick one.

And the Govt will try to prosecute you for having "data smuggling software" on your computer.

Corrupt (1)

stupidflanders (1230894) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333586)

Nice laptop you got there! Mind if I take a look? *browses through 100Gigs of torrents* Hrm... um, yes, I'll need to take this in. Please step out of the car, sir. *returns to office to watch the entire first season of Northern Exposure*

Re:Corrupt (4, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333690)

Actually, that's the case with the confiscations:

"Hey nice laptop you got there. We need to hrm... search it... will have to take it down to forensics... we'll send it to you when we're done..." ... a year later...

"Where's my laptop?"
"Still searching..."
"Can I get it back"
"No! National security... 9/11... terrorists... child pornography... gay marriage... cats and dogs living together... enough key words yet?"

Does the 5th ammendment apply? (4, Interesting)

illumin8 (148082) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333604)

I just have a question for any legal scholars or experts in this field:

Does the 5th ammendment apply if I have strong encryption on my laptop? Can I simply refuse to give them the passphrase, or will I end up in Gitmo?

Re:Does the 5th ammendment apply? (3, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333632)

As far as I understand, they cannot arrest you, because you haven't committed a crime, but they can refuse you entry into the country.


What about? (3, Interesting)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333904)

TheMeuge said:

As far as I understand, they cannot arrest you, because you haven't committed a crime, but they can refuse you entry into the country.
Just out of curiosity, can they refuse you entry if you are US citizen? Considering it is your home country, there isn't exactly another home country to send you back to, is there?

If they CAN refuse you entry, what happens if the country they send you back to denies you re-entry? Do you just spend the rest of your life hopping back and forth on planes until someone gives in?

I honestly, don't see how they could deny entry to a US citizen, for any reason. Can someone please clarify?

Re:What about that old buzzard in Paris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334096)

There's a guy in Paris who is without a country. Been living in the airport for decades.

And by the way, even though the Supreme Court says passwords are protected by the 2nd and 5th Amendments, they've also ruled if you're at the border under control of Customs the Constitution doesn't apply because you aren't in the country.

Let's go to prison. (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334148)

They don't have to send you back anywhere. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operate detention centers (read: prisons) around the country for people with problematic status.

So, no, there's no need to send you to Gitmo.

Re:Does the 5th ammendment apply? (1)

mxs (42717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334130)

That depends.

Are you an American citizen ? If so, you may be afforded human rights under US law. If not, well, you have no rights.

Re:Does the 5th ammendment apply? (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334184)

I just have a question for any legal scholars or experts in this field ...

Well, you've come to the right place. I'm certain the Slashdot audience consists of constitutional scholars, department heads in the Department of Homeland Security, employees of Customs and Border Inspection, and lots of ordinary folks who just happen to have law degrees and keep up with relevant legislation.

Or maybe not.

The article, however, does offer the following comment:

If conducted inside the country, such searches would require a warrant and probable cause, legal experts said.

In contrast to many Slashdot articles, this one is especially worth reading, notwithstanding that the last article on the same subject was fairly vague on the nature and extent of the searches (when it wasn't discussing a particular legal case) and provided few examples that anyone could relate to.

I point out the value of the article also for the benefit of those ready and eager to chime in with multiple, redundant TrueCrypt suggestions to save everyone else the wasted screen real estate. Put another way, this is serious, folks. More depressingly, the subject of the lawsuit is a FOIA request, and doesn't seek to address the legality of what is happening.

Lube 16GB usb drive. Insert as directed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333618)

I believe I've said enough... ;-)

A line has just been crossed... (2, Insightful)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333626)

Seriously, this is going overboard. If this starts happening on a large scale, I'm buying a bunch of microSD cards and storing everything important on those instead (easier to hide).

I think more than a few corporations will object to this, though, if only because sensitive data really shouldn't find its way into the hands of these people... who knows what might leak?

Really? (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333630)

I've taken a number of international flights over the past few years. Every time I re-enter the US, I've never even had my bags searched by customs... Nor did anyone that I was flying with (that I noticed, at least).

pretty sad (4, Interesting)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333646)

It's pretty sad when Americans need to travel with blank laptops for fear of having their data seized by US border agents; in the past, that sort of thing was necessary when traveling behind the iron curtain.

It's also pointless, given that data can be stored easily and encrypted on the Internet, on flash drives (some of which are tiny), or even hidden steganographically.

Re:pretty sad (4, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334082)

It's pretty sad when Americans need to travel with blank laptops for fear of having their data seized by US border agents...

Which also brings up the following line of questioning by border guards: "Why are you traveling with a blank laptop? You wouldn't keep a blank laptop around unless you had something to hide."

Saddest of all is the futility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334140)

Only an idiot is going to keep incriminating evidence on their person anyway. The authorities may just as well go ahead encourage everyone to use bootable CD's and SSH for personal/private/illegal stuff.

Are you americans awake there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333650)

Like I need another reason NOT to go to Amerika. Shit, I'm 20 minutes from the border with absolutely no desire to set foot in that country at all.

You think Britney is bad? I'm sitting up here watching this train wreck in slow motion. You guys do have a constitution and guns still. That's more that we can say. Are you going to do anything about that police state, or watch America wimper into the abyss?

Copyright (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333652)

Backup a few of your CDs onto your laptop, and when Customs copies the data, tip off the RIAA. Let them fight with each other.

Re:Copyright (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334150)


I think that could fall under entrapment-like (entrapment applies to law enforcement only last I checked) laws. Boobytrapping someone intentionally with illegal content then turning them in I think would get you in a bit of trouble. Any lawyers care to comment?

Sick the RIAA on 'em! (4, Funny)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333668)

Obviously they're just trying to steal MP3s!

Re:Sick the RIAA on 'em! (1)

JeepFanatic (993244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333730)

Seriously ... wouldn't this be considered to be a copyright violation that the RIAA would want to bring suit against the customs dept? Imagine the judgement they could get for the volume of files that has been copied.

Re:Sick the RIAA on 'em! (1)

vtscott (1089271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333838)

And our porn. Did the government contract electronic surveillance at the border to the geek squad?

Don't copy that floppy! (2, Interesting)

mrogers (85392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333678)

Are Customs and Border Protection officers bound by copyright law like us mere mortals? Would they be violating the DMCA if they circumvented the measures I've put in place to protect my data (such as /bin/login and the screws that hold my laptop together)?

Copying my mp3's... (1, Funny)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333702)

**calls up RIAA**
Hey, you want to know the biggest mp3 copying racket inside the US?.....

before 1984... (5, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333704)

Presumably the prequel to 1984 would have shown Big Brother to be a charismatic politician preaching what a democratic majority wanted to hear. The need for security only reasonably matched the need to protect against Oceania's enemies... He was respected, and his election was a free choice. He then began to change little things slowly.


A prior honest President genuinely though the security measures were necessary. Then a corrupt Big Brother saw that the mechanisms created could be exploited and was attracted to power. He then said all the right things and got himself elected. The tools to control were already in place.

Well, today in the US, and especially the UK, those mechanisms are already firmly in place. Even if your current government is not evil, there's nothing stopping the next one so being. With the new powers one can wield what evil person wouldn't want to gain control? One eventually will come to power. It is inevitable.

It's probably already too late.

Re:before 1984... (0)

shadowcabbit (466253) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334160)

Even if your current government is not evil, there's nothing stopping the next one so being.

Uh, no. See, there's this thing called a ballot box? Not sure if you've heard of it. That could, hypothetically I mean, stop the next government from being evil...

Looking inside your suitcase w/out a warrant (4, Insightful)

Iowan41 (1139959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333706)

is also unconstitutional. But these days we are encouraged to snigger, and call 'nuts' the one candidate out of the pack who says that the federal government should be made to obey the Constitution.

The simile doesn't fit... (4, Insightful)

TheOnlyJuztyn (813918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333718)

"The government claims that this intelligence-gathering by Customs is the same as looking in a suitcase."
I'm pretty sure copying data off of your laptop or blackberry would be more like looking in your suitcase and then confiscating everything in it. Which probably wouldn't fly with many folks.

no sensitive data on live gear, use VPN (1)

Barryke (772876) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333732)

Do not carry data that sensitive on live gear, they've invented more secure connections like VPN to keep data where it is more safe.

Re:no sensitive data on live gear, use VPN (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334144)

A fine idea, considering the government isn't the only threat if your stuff gets stolen.

I'd be happy to show the government everything on my laptop. I'm not stupid enough to keep sensitive info on the machine...

OT: TrueCrypt 5.0 (1)

DollyTheSheep (576243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333734)

TrueCrypt 5.0 came out recently. Guess, you will be sent home then for not complying with some rules you don't know.

ridiculousness (1)

erbbysam (964606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333762)

This is just a bit ridiculousness, you cannot actually expect to find anything of use for national security, anything of that nature, I'd imagine, would be sent over an encrypted channel into/out of the US. The only thing that they are doing are searching, without warrant, American citizens for "contraband data", and combine that with the current state of our copyright system, you can probably find cause to confiscate every single piece of modern electronics coming over the border. Go truecrypt 5 :)

wtf (4, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333782)

Aside from the privacy and civil rights concerns, this is seriously unacceptable to just about any company with trade secrets. What is the point of the most paranoid security policies on company notebooks for internationally traveling employees, if they can't cross the border without their sensitive data getting searched?

Industrial espionage, including by the US, is a very real concern.

Scared... (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333802)

I was recently invited to visit some family in the US of A, but because of things like this, I'm not sure it would be wise to go. I mean, I'm running linux on my laptop. Obviously I'm a terrorist and communist. I also have a metre of hair, but fortunately no beard. Maybe my blue eyes will get me a free pass though.

Well, the thing that they are able to stop people from entering the country isn't a problem. The thing that they can do this without any rational reason at all is.

Happend to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333816)

This almost happened to me a few weeks back.
Went over to the U.S. to install a product at a clients offices.
They asked me to start up me laptop to have a look.
Knowing that I had more then my fair share of DivX and mp3 this came as a bit of a shock.
And then I thought of all the questions i would get if i booted into my default Kubuntu.
Luckily I had WinXP left on a small partition so when the GRUB menu came up i just scrolled down to the bottom and booted windows.

The security drone never reacted to the GRUB menu or the fact that the XP system was completely blank. No book marks, no files, nothing.
5min later he was done and i got the laptop back.

So why they let people that have no clue about computer do a forensic-test-in-a-minute is beyond me.

If they REALLY wanted idiots to do it they should have a custom made Linux boot disc that scan the system for any "black listed" files.

Copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333840)

Let me get this straight...

Border agent's copying things off your laptop is equivalent to looking through a suitcase?

I guess that copying MP3s is equivalent to listening to the songs in the record store.

Thanks US Border agents!

start carrying infected memory sticks (1)

waynemr (739548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333854)

Find the most evil, vile malware possible and lace some memory sticks with it. Then, let them have at it.

Re:start carrying infected memory sticks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334038)

u mean the last measure operating system, right?

files on my laptop include (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22333860)

saddams_wmd_secret_storage.rar, iran_atombomb.rar, bin_ladin_saudi_homeaddress sorry i work in the white house.

Copyright (1)

Fear13ss (917494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333870)

So, if my laptop were to contain copyrighted works such as my music collection does. If they were to make a copy of this work wouldn't they themselves be guilty? Someone should send the RIAA there way!

Just how secure is their storage? (4, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333874)

I don't give my business partner access to all my files so now the border agents are demanding access to them. There's sensitive company information in the files. What's to stop some one from hacking their system and gaining access to my company's information? I keep certain machines off the internet to avoid any possibility of hacking, do they do the same? Let's say a border agent copies legally bought music from my MP3 player then posts it on the web, am I responsible since it was my responsibility to keep those files secure and off the net? There's a massive potential for abuse over and above the looking for embarassing photos on some one's hard drive. We aren't talking FBI or CIA here. Most agents are underpaid and poorly trained. There's still a lot of confusion about what's allowed on planes and there is a lot of abuse in body searches. If the agents are already getting their jollies from patting down well known actors then what are the odds they'll be digging through personal files looking for dirt?

Story in the Washington Post (4, Informative)

Ardipithecus (985280) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333894)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/06/AR2008020604763.html?hpid=topnews [washingtonpost.com]

"Eventually, he agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited, said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of calling attention to himself."

Then explain why you were checking all the Iranian sites. "Oh, the cable, of course. Please step over here sir."

Confiscating or Copying? (0)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333898)

Wait one minute. I'm not saying I agree with this policy one bit. But we on this site are always going on about how copying isn't stealing because you aren't depriving anyone of anything.

Given this logic, how can you describe "copying data brought to the border" as "Confiscating Data at the Border"?

According to Merriam-Webster:

confiscating [merriam-webster.com]

1 : to seize as forfeited to the public treasury
2 : to seize by or as if by authority

(I'll leave looking up "seize" as an exercise to the reader.)


Re:Confiscating or Copying? (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334132)

Given this logic, how can you describe "copying data brought to the border" as "Confiscating Data at the Border"?

Well, given that in TFA, one "Udy" had her employer's (Radius) laptop stolen by customs, I think we can say "confiscated".

Useless! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333936)

A smart guy will just upload his data in an encrypted form to a webpage or something.

Then, he gets to the US, downloads the data via TOR (or a similar approach), and still be safe.

One characteristic of terrorists is that they're smart (until they commit suicide, that is :P ). They're not going to be encumbered by those stupid police state tactics.

I'm sure all this data confiscation is done just to fool citizens into believing they're safer than before.

Re:Useless! (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334194)

I'm sure all this data confiscation is done just to fool citizens into believing they're safer than before.

Hadley... the board patrol just needs more MP3s for their iPods.

How Long Before... (3, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333956)

How long before Microsoft and the BSA manage to get checks for "illegal bootleg" software included in the searches.

And then the RIAA and MPAA will demand that "illegal content" be stopped.

Every special interest group that can tie their interests to computer data will want in after that.

Cell Phone Search (5, Informative)

jaredcat (223478) | more than 6 years ago | (#22333984)

I've been subjected to this myself.

I live in San Diego, about 10 miles from the Mexico boarder. A lot of San Diegans, including myself, go down there all the time for clubs and cheap shopping. On the way back to the US, I've got about a 5% chance of being stopped and taken to Secondary Inspection-- I've been in Secondary 5 times in the past 5 years. The first agent who you speak to when going through the normal process can flag you to be in Secondary if he thinks something is suspicious or out of order.

Usually Secondary just involves a more detailed search of my car and 30 minutes of sitting in a waiting room with a bunch of Mexicans. One time in Secondary was quite different. In this case, the first guy asked me where I went in Mexico on this trip. I couldn't pronounce the name (Via Bueneventeura in Chapultapec, Tijuana), and I guess he thought I was making it up or telling him a story. He put a note on my windshield and directed me towards Secondary.

For some reason this particular Customs agent in Secondary didn't believe that I am who I said I am. He kept asking me why I would go to a foreign country without my passport (at the time, you only needed to bring a driver's license and that is all I ever brought with me). After asking me questions for over an hour (literally, what hospital was I born in? where did I go to elementary school? etc...) and looking me up in various databases, the guy starts going through my stuff.

The customs agent wanted to search my smartphone (Sony Ericsson P910i at the time), but he didn't know how to use it. I asked him what he thought he could possibly find in there that could be contraband. At any rate, he didn't know how to search my phone, and I wasn't going to help him. There was a big toothmark in my phone from where my dog chewed on it, and I told him that because of the damage to the touch screen, I couldn't actually go through the files on the phone anymore. He wasn't too happy with that answer, but he accepted it anyway.

Another hour later I started complaining to one of the supervisors on the floor-- I had been sitting in this smelly waiting room for 2+ hours with no access to a bathroom, and there was no apparent reason to keep holding me. By now the agent must have confirmed in at least 12 different databases that I am a US citizen, born and raised. I'm also just about the whitest nerdy white guy with a Boston accent that you could ever hope to meet; not exactly the archetype of a foreign agent or drug smuggler. The supervisor finally gave me leave to go.

Of course my car had been turned upside down-- glove compartment and everything else turned out. Rather than complain again, I just wanted to get out of there.

Since then I always bring a passport, and I definitely don't go across the boarder as often as I used to since that experience.

Re:Cell Phone Search (1)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334228)

>>Since then I always bring a passport, and I definitely don't go across the boarder as often as I used to since that experience.

One of these days I'm going to be crossing it, and will not come back. I'm looking at Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, and Australia. There are things about each I don't like, such as Iceland forcing everyone to submit DNA samples to a database.

We're either making steps forward, or steps backward. I'm hopeful things will get better with new leadership.

Just another reason to encrypt (1)

Bobb Sledd (307434) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334040)

Just one more reason among many to download and use TrueCrypt. I've been using it for a long time now, and as long as it is as strong as it claims, I have been generally happy with its performance.

On the topic though, I recently traveled to a foreign country and had my laptop with me. No one searched nuthin'. I even had a pair of sharp multi-tool scissors with me in the laptop bag, in the cabin, the whole way, and no one ever even caught it... At least 8 flights internationally. ...except a month later, when I took the very same laptop from Texas to Florida, the scissors were confiscated on a flight then. Go figure.

I'm sure it is GW Bush's and Bill Gate's fault colluding with the RIAA somehow... I just haven't figure it out yet.

Encrypt (5, Interesting)

DeanFox (729620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334052)

Good timing with the Truecrypt 5.0 release. This is search/seizure without cause and is against basic rights but this shouldn't be too big a deal. It isn't for me.

I travel with everything inside a Truecrypt hidden volume. My OS is exposed in the regular volume along with browser cache showing activity to news.google.com. That's it. The rest of the system is contained within a hidden volume.

I've been asked to turn my PC on and type in my "password" and I do so cheerfully. They see exactly what I allow them to see: The OS with browser cache to news.google.com. They seem satisfied and I get waved on.

I can play this game and I win. I'm not waiting for the courts to tell me what is/isn't right/wrong. I already know what's right/wrong. It's irrelevant (to me) how this all plays out in the courts. No thief, public or private gets my data.


Who Does It Apply To? (1)

WebmasterNeal (1163683) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334112)

Does this apply to US citizens coming back into the US or to foreigners entering the country? I can see how something like this could happen with foreigners, not that it's ok to do necessarily.

Expectation of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334116)

It the laptop is password protected, there is an expectation of privacy and they would require a search warrant.

See Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967)

WTF? (5, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334136)

Looking for data being smuggled over the border? What a ridiculous idea...
Who would go to the trouble of transporting data on physical media, when it can be transmitted over the internet?

That problematic new digital paradigm... (1)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334154)

First it was the music industry and the movie industry complaining about easy copying of their content.

Now it's regular people whose digital information can be copied in full by law enforcement on crossing the border. Law enforcement can then take as much time as it wants examining the data bit by bit, reading your creative writing, sex videos with your wife, planning outlines, trade secrets, the next edition of "Harry Potter" if you are JK Rowling, etc.

The old rule is that you have no privacy interest when you cross the border. But now the privacy intrusion has the potential to be far greater than ever before. Maybe we need a new rule. Or maybe we just need to keep our info encrypted. Or save it on a flash drive sealed inside a swallowed condom.

Confiscating? Slashdot just can't learn terms (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334174)

U.S. Confiscating Data at the Border

How the hell is copying your data confiscating it? Come on, when you download a song, you aren't stealing it (confiscating it), and the same goes for when they copy your data. Sure, it's fucked up that they keep a copy, but it's not confiscation unless they keep the laptop or delete the data on it.

Random data? (5, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334212)

Next time I cross the border, remind me to carry a suitcase full of DVDs full of random data labeled "one-time pad disk 1," "one time pad disk 2," etc.

Let them waste their time copying those disks.

When they ask what they are, I'll tell them the truth: They are unused one-time pads that are designed to be used to encrypt corporate data. If they ask, I will also tell them truthfully that if they leave my sight they will not be used.

Oh, I'll also include a disk that has nothing but a copy of the Bill of Rights on it, just to see if they are paying attention.

Same as looking in a suitcase?? (5, Insightful)

werelord (562191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334230)

If I remember correctly, Kevin Mitnick was imprisoned for 5 years, 4.5 of them pre-trial; 8 months of solitary confinement, for copying files "worth" 160k (actual value much less)..

And now its "same as looking in a suitcase"??

obviously "who" does it makes a difference.. The government has your best interests at heart, honestly!!

it happened to me (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22334232)

customs took my flash drive into the away from me for 30 min because they said they wanted to copy it. they also took my paper notebook away for 30 min. I suspected they photocopied the entire thing. I felt very violated. especially since I'm a US citizen. border agents in other countries have never treated me like this.

I have a Mac laptop (1)

doginthewoods (668559) | more than 6 years ago | (#22334278)

Can they access that from their most likely PC based computers? If they cannot, then what? Am I required to tell them how to do it? What if I have a particularly nasty Windows self actuating replicating data destruction type virus on my Mac, as defense against those who want to steal my data, and it gets into their system and it destroys their data base? Then what? Didn't they ask to copy all my data?
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