IT Trenches

Aug 21 2008   8:08PM GMT

IT Equipment search & seizure at the US borders

Troy Tate Profile: Troy Tate

I have recently been hearing some rumblings about this issue. I work for a firm with international locations and have travelled out of the country myself. So, this is a personal issue.

What I am referring to is the situation described in this article by David Jonas of The Transnational: Airport Laptop Seizures Debated in Washington. I know that I should have nothing to worry about if I do nothing wrong like any law abiding citizen of the world. However, what about the risk to an organization’s intellectual property?

Look at the comment …the laptop seizure policy is not analogous to physical searches of persons and belongings at airports: “Not only does the government get access to an unprecedented wealth of material with a laptop border search, but the government now has the ability to copy, store and analyze that information at its leisure. In traditional border searches, travelers carried their suitcases with them once they cleared customs. With laptop border searches, the government can keep everything in the computer in perpetuity.” So, who is responsible for the data once it is out of the traveller’s hands? What is the care & duty of the government with regards to a company’s intellectual capital?

This issue seems like a bureaucratic (and maybe totalitarian leaning – think “Big Brother”) nightmare! Who would be considered the appropriate person to review the data on a device? What is their liability if the device or data is damaged during their review?

I know I don’t have an easy answer to these nagging questions and it will take much better minds and skills than mine to work through the protection and liability issues for an organization. What mechanisms do you use to protect equipment and data during travel? Maybe this situation is a boon to shipping organizations. More people may be shipping their gear ahead of them when travelling across the border or use equipment at a remote site and transfer data across a network.

This situation is definitely one to watch and be concerned about as world citizens.

Thanks for your time. Let’s be good network citizens together & practice safe networking!

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