Friday, May 01, 2009
I am not a lawyer. Seek local legal counsel first; you are responsible for your actions, not me.
As people become increasingly technological we proportionally keep more personal records and information on our portable data devices (e.g., laptops, iPhones, PDAs, etc). Previous to the data revolution, our deeply personal information (e.g., love letters from your wife, your financial dealings, etc) was safe at home, at a bank, or another physically disparate location. Customs did not have jurisdiction to look through information/data other than what you brought with you, and what their existing records on you were.
We are now in the position that some of your data is not necessarily on a portable device, but it is accessible by it. For instance, your google-drive might contain private information about you, and you can access it via your iTouch. A customs agent should have no more ability to search your remotely-accessible files any more than they could send somebody over to your place to retreive some personal files they would like to see. You may have your portable configured to link to your gdrive after a password is entered, but you should not provide the password to it for a search any more than you should provide a key for the customs agent to go search your home.
Be prepared - you may get turned back at the border - but they will be unable to take a copy of your filesystem because you are not carrying your filesystem; it is not on your person. Even if your portable were seized and confiscated (legally or illegally), they still would not get the remote data, and that is how it should be. In my country we have legal rights respecting protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Your remote files are not within the jurisdiction of a border patrol; they cannot search them.
Nobody likes a hassle, but if people do not stand up for their rights they will ultimately lose them, tiny step by tiny step. Stand up for your rights; refuse illegal searches. Keep your data remote.
If any lawyers for various nationalities want to comment and tell me what their laws/jurisprudence are, I'd be happy to hear from you.
Burton MacKenZie www.burtonmackenzie.com