Laptop data confiscated at U.S. border - another reason for Sun Ray

Slashdot highlighted this Washington Post article on Confiscation and copying of all electronic data at U.S. borders. From the article:

She said the federal agent copied her log-on and password, and asked her to show him a recent document and how she gains access to Microsoft Word. She was asked to pull up her e-mail but could not because of lack of Internet access. With ACTE's help, she pressed for relief. More than a year later, Udy has received neither her laptop nor an explanation.
ACTE last year filed a Freedom of Information Act request to press the government for information on what happens to data seized from laptops and other electronic devices. "Is it destroyed right then and there if the person is in fact just a regular business traveler?" Gurley asked. "People are quite concerned. They don't want proprietary business information floating, not knowing where it has landed or where it is going. It increases the anxiety level..."

Companies with trade secrets on laptops already have to worry about malware and outright theft, now it seems there is a good chance that your business data might end up wherever the border patrol decides it belongs. When I last traveled to the U.S., I brought a cute littleSun Ray 2 thin client and a traditional "fat client" laptop running OpenSolaris Nevada, just in case the Sun Ray didn't work over the long data path between the U.S. and Ireland. But Sun Ray worked fine! So the next time I travel to the U.S., there may be no reason to bring a heavy laptop with a potentially dangerous battery. If the TSA or FAA ever decide to completely ban laptops aboard aircraft, I hope airlines will provide lightweight, low-power thin client terminals in their business class.

As chaotic and lawless as the early internet is, we've come to a time when it is already a safer place for your data than your briefcase. Of course, if you like the weight and coolness of a laptop to remind you that you are traveling for business, but don't want to risk your corporate data falling into the wrong hands, the Sun Ray 2N or Naturetech's Sun Ray compatible laptop are ideal for you. I'd love to see the look on the face of the customs guy when he asks someone to copy all of their laptop data and they tell him, "'Data? We ain't got no data here. We don't need no data! I don't have to show you any stinkin' data!'."

cat /dev/null > mostlyunconstitutionalfederalizedbureacracydatabase.dat

Cool. Hooray for the Webtone!

Posted by Johnny Bravo on February 08, 2008 at 07:29 AM GMT+00:00 #

On second thought... I am looking for a reliable way to backup all of my digital photos and home movies. Maybe the border agents will oblige?

Posted by bnitz on February 08, 2008 at 03:57 PM GMT+00:00 #

Years ago, I remember having my daytimer paper portfolio shuffled through, and another time my PDA. While they did not keep anything... customs agents obviously were privey to confidential company info. Talk about the potential for a real mess, especially if one came across a rogue customs agent.

No doubt, such scenarios are unlikely to be addressed from an IP or trade secret situation in and of itself, yet as soon as such practices ever end up affecting the financial sector, things will change. Just wait until some version of SarOx prohibits paper.... or portable data in any form.

Posted by Ron on February 15, 2008 at 12:41 PM GMT+00:00 #

Interesting comment. Yes these agencies won't settle on rational security practices until there is significant pressure from impacted financial sectors. I'd be surprised if the airline and tourism industry haven't already seen an impact. At a time when the U.S. is dirt cheap for those on the Euro and Sterling, Europeans are already avoiding tourism and business travel to the U.S. for these reasons. But I recently saw an ad put out by Gov. Schwarzenegger begging British citizens to emigrate to California. It seems many California house prices have grown beyond the reach of anyone paid ordinary wages in U.S. dollars!

I never thought about Sarbanes-Oxaly prohibiting paper documents but I started to write a sci-fi story based on the premise of a DRM electronic-media only society. The ability of DRM to target all content to individual readers and the ultra-short data lifespan (e.g. Domesday project, HD-DVD) would make the prohibition of paper/analog content very convenient for government data trolls and content cartels (MPAA/RIAA...) Imagine if customs agents had to read through paper copies of the Bible, Federalist Papers and Arthur Miller's plays to determine if I had any subversive material? On the other hand, looking through 40G of my family photos and a few hundred Gig of my home movies can't be the most interesting job in the world. I haven't even had time to look at all of them :-/

Posted by bnitz on February 18, 2008 at 03:12 AM GMT+00:00 #

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