Despite a lawsuit from the ACLU, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has put some new rules and regulations in place, regarding crossing the United States border with laptops and other electronic media storage devices. The rules, similar to those placed by the Bush administration, 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." Or so says the DHS website.
Under the regulations, border officials have the right to seize and search your laptops, flash drives, and MP3 players without warning. They can keep the laptop or other items for up to thirty days and must keep the owner informed of what is happening with the search's progress. It is believed by the Association for Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) that an image of the laptops' hard drive is taken and stored for an undetermined amount of time.
So what should you do if you're planning to cross the border? Whether traveling for business or pleasure, chances are there are important files you will need for your trip. Here are several ways to be prepared, just in case your laptop is subject to the search and seizure:
- Store your files in other locations. Put them on an external hard drive or disc, or even use an internet-based storage system such as Good Docs. This way you can access your files any time and will always have more than one copy around.
- If your laptop or the information stored on it is important to your job, let border agents know verbally, if not in writing. According the ACTE, you will retain more of your legal rights this way.
- Consider a Laptop Rental. A laptop rental can be delivered to your destination. Not only will you avoid the hassle of dealing with border agents, but you avoid having to carry extra equipment when you travel. Renting a laptop also eliminates the potential for loss or damage while traveling.