Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued some new rules regarding what border officials can and can't do with your laptops and any other electronic media storage device. Despite a lawsuit from the ACLU, the rules are very similar to those put in place by the Bush administration with a few slight changes. According to the DHS website, the rules will "enhance transparency, accountability and oversight of electronic media searches at U.S. ports of entry and includes new administrative procedures designed to reflect broad considerations of civil liberties and privacy protections."
Either way, border officials can still seize and search your laptop, MP3 player, or flash drives without warning and can look at any file on it without reason. The new rules require those performing the search to keep the item for no longer than a 30 day period and keep laptop owners informed of the search's progress. The Association for Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) has said they believe border officials make images of the laptops' hard drive and return the laptops to their owners by mail, with copied files being stored for an indefinite amount of time.
In any event, if you are traveling beyond the border, there are a few ways to be prepared, just in case your laptop is seized. Chances are, if you're traveling for business or even for pleasure, there are files on your computer that will need while on your trip. Here are some ways to avoid being stuck without important information:
- This is a no-brainer, but store your files in multiple locations. Take advantage of external drives and discs, or even an internet-based storage system such as Google Docs that will allow you to access information anytime, anywhere.
- If the information stored on your laptop is pertinent to your job, make sure you inform border agents verbally and if possible, in writing. According tot he ACTE, this will help you retain more legal rights.
- Consider a Laptop Rental. By renting a laptop and having it delivered to your destination, you'll avoid the hassle of dealing with the issue all together, have one less piece of equipment to carry on your trip, and you won't risk unexpected loss or damage that might occur during any type of search and seizure.