(Reprint of a Feb, 2011 article to which we had expected answers to the FOIL request we’d submitted to the TSA. To date, we have not received a response so this article is being reposted to increase privacy awareness for travelers.)
Well, this is a new one on me but my cell phone was recently confiscated at an airport screening area, taken out of my sight and returned with all of my information wiped clean. (I didn’t realize it until I had reached my destination.) Until then I did not know that customs has the right to a) copy your hard drives and scan them for security threats when traveling abroad and b) hold on to your electronic devices for days, even weeks. This includes inspection and confiscation of any electronic device – cell phones, laptops, Ipads…
I’m fairly certain that wiping my phone clean was an accident but the inspection was not. I wasn’t carrying anything out of the norm for any traveling businessperson. Laptop, phone and digital camera. Additional screening selection is not unusual for me – I tend to have to arrange last-minute travels, usually within 48 hours of departure time, and that’s an automatic flagging. (A senior airline executive friend explained this to me upon my query as to the excessive second screenings I undergo.)
My suggestion to those traveling with very sensitive information (call me paranoid but if I have proprietary data, client contracts, family pics, contact info… on my laptop, I certainly do object to this over the top intrusion), upload all of this private data (text docs, presos, pics, film…) into DropBox, an app that is the easiest way to store, sync, and even share files online. (Later, you can retrieve your data easily from any computer, mobile, info device… with your unique user name and password.) Then wipe the data you’d like hidden, comfortable that your data is safe from prying eyes, securely stored and available to you at your convenience.
The need for intelligence gathering is understood but not the incessant invasion of privacy. We’ll keep you updated as this issue gathers more attention and perhaps a court challenge.
BNI Operatives: A step ahead.
As always, be safe.