Think twice about bringing your latop--Thank DHS for it....
I got my usual magazine in the mail at work (The Information Management Journal--ARMA members get it only). I was flipping through the pages to see what is in it and to see if there were any good articles. I was suprised to find quite a few, however, what I found on Page 6 was very interesting, and will impact EVERYONE travelling with their laptop and some other electronic devices.
The basis of the article is DHS has put a practice into place where Homeland Security can SEIZE your laptop and they will go through the contents of your laptop with a fine tooth comb--only hoping that when you get it back it functions properly. They can keep your laptop for as little as a few hours, or as long as it darn well wants to (until it's search is done)! The information they collect is shared with law enforcement and other government agencies (FBI, CIA, etc.). Neeldess to say, you will NOT want to have any illegal music downloads saved to the laptop as it is an offence and you could be charged for copyright infringement (Piracy).
Now, the article is based around business, but this change does not only affect business travellers, it covers EVERYONE travelling within the US, to the US, or from the US. International travellers have already had items seized and in many cases, the items are not returned for several weeks to several months.
Laptops are not the onlydevices they have seized and/or covered by this new change. According to the article, and I will paraphrase, "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form.." is covered. Thus, your MP3 player, your Blackberry, any hard drive, flash drive, memory sticks, pager, beeper, and yes, even VIDEO from your videocamera! It also covers documents you have on your person including books, pamphlets, and "Junk" literature (such as an information brochure for Atlantis Sub ride in St. Thomas!).
Now, how many people have been affected, or how they determine which laptop/device to search is not disclosed, but the fact is now DHS is interested in our personal electronic devices we have on our person travelling in and through airports. Thus, it is a good idea to make a backup if your hard drive before you leave because you never know when DHS will decide YOUR laptop, which you brought so you can get a head start on uploading those vacation photos, is the one it is going to seize.
I have a specific laptop that I travel with. It does not contain any "personal" information and only has bare bones software on it.
Having said that: The chances that your laptop will be "seized" are extremely low and you will get it back as long as there is no major illegal activity. I STRONGLY doubt your laptop top will be seized and you will be prosecuted if you have a ripped copy of "Jimmy Buffet's Greatest Hits".
This information will not affect my carrying of a laptop.
BTW: I would guess that 1/2 to 3/4 (I would say I'm low) of all business travelers travel with a laptop and they aren't going to stop.
I also have not heard of anyone having their laptop seized for extended inspection.
ICE and HMS can also hold you for 72 hours so you should stop flying.
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"There is a great difference between being well traveled and just having been to many places." ~Me