Flying to the US on business? Leave your laptop at home

Business travellers visiting America are being warned not to travel with sensitive information – because US security staff can copy it and hang on to it indefinitely.

“Right now, the U.S. customs department has the right to look at the data on your computer and download that data if they want to,” Gurley said. “The Ninth Circuit held that it is within the purview of the U.S. government to look at or download anything” on laptops and other electronic devices at the border, she said.

A recent court ruling says that laptops are just like any other luggage, which means security have the right to search their contents.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) has issued a warning to its members worldwide – and to all business travellers – to limit proprietary information on laptop computers when crossing U.S. borders, and to eliminate any personal data, including photographs, finances and email that you do not want examined by Border Protection authorities. The warning follows a decision by a federal appeals court on 21 April 2008 giving customs officials the unfettered authority to examine, copy, and seize travellers’ laptops – without reasonable suspicion.

The ACTE isn’t telling its members to hide data; it’s suggesting that they should take steps to avoid sensitive corporate information from getting into the wrong hands, or from being deleted by some fat-fingered fool. The group also recommends:

3) If your laptop also serves as your major home computer, get another one for travel purposes.

I reckon journalists travelling to the US might want to pay attention to that one.

4 replies on “Flying to the US on business? Leave your laptop at home”

The Swiss confiscated multiple hard copy documents containing step by step design and implementation details of highly proprietary programs and data from a consortium of banks. They were printed and loosely ring bound and we had 20 copies of these books for review and sign off. The banks in question were the biggest global banks who were investing in custom technology and all their practices, SOPs etc were contained as were the future state etc etc.

When you cross borders, anything goes. The Swiss confiscated the books because they thought that the books were for commercial sale and wanted us to pay duty on them. Apparently Kinkos did too good of a job binding them though the words DRAFT and Proprietary and Confidential were stamped on each one. We didn’t want to pay the asinine tax (would have exceeded the cost of producing the books by 10x) so we left them there. As far as we know, those books are still being held by the Swiss.

I reckon the same is true of a flash drive, laptop, disks, DVD players etc etc. There was someone who got caught at the border with a bunch of pedophile porn on DVDs and was sent to jail. What I wonder is what leads a customs agent to even spend the time to do this. I’ve always carried a lot of DVDs that are home-labeled, I carry several laptops, documents, flash drives etc when I travel and cross borders and no one has ever even shown the slightest interest.

Put your docs on a micro SD on your cell phone or even on an iPod. I don’t think the masses have figured out you can store documents on those.

My point is just that confiscation is nothing new – whether it’s for “homeland security” or trying to obtain duty on an item of perceived value your stuff is fair game it appears when crossing borders – whether your coming to the U.S. or going to Switzerland.

The banks in question were the biggest global banks who were investing in custom technology and all their practices, SOPs etc were contained as were the future state.

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