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New Bill To Rein In DHS Laptop Seizures 311

twigles writes with news of a new proposed bill that seeks to curtail DHS's power to search and seize laptops at the border without suspicion of wrongdoing. Here is Sen. Feingold's press release on the bill. The new bill has more privacy-protecting safeguards than the previous one, which we discussed last month. "The Travelers Privacy Protection Act, a bill written by US Senators Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., would allow border agents to search electronic devices only if they had reasonable suspicions of wrongdoing. In addition, the legislation would limit the length of time that a device could be out of its owner's possession to 24 hours, after which the search becomes a seizure, requiring probable cause."
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New Bill To Rein In DHS Laptop Seizures

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  • Accountability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @10:48PM (#25295165) Journal

    If they take a laptop to search it for 24 hours they should first detail their "reasonable suspicion" on a form to which the person's whose laptop is being taken receives a copy to chat with their lawyer about.

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:04PM (#25295289)
    there's no way in hell i'd ever visit the USA under the current regime. the same goes for the UK. detain without charge or trail indefinitely, government sponsored theft of your property. fuck that.
  • Re:Accountability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:05PM (#25295311)

    Hm.. i'd be more concerned about their definition of "probable cause" and them finding (or planting) it on the 23rd hour.

    For example... is the existence of a secure encrypted volume they can't read probable cause? (Noone innocent would have any need to encrypt anything, right?? What have they got to hide????)

  • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:14PM (#25295371) Homepage

    I'd also like to know what measures the bill takes to prevent the border guards from saying "well, we lost it, sucks to be you". Does it have guarantees spelled out? If my laptop gets "lost" while they have it, will they buy me a new one? Will someone lose their job or go to jail over it?

    Because if the answer is "no", then at this point I just plain don't believe it will matter.

  • by Kickersny.com ( 913902 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <srekcik>> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:14PM (#25295377) Homepage

    I'd rather let a million spam emails slip through than block one legitimate one.

    Same deal with suspicious characters at the border.

  • More than a pita (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpazmodeusG ( 1334705 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:22PM (#25295427)
    How do i get my laptop back after 24hours when i'm just a tourist with no address to have it sent to?
    Also if the "reasonable suspicion is truly reasonable" wouldn't that be the probable cause that the op was stating should be required?
  • Expedited shipping? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @11:26PM (#25295451) Homepage

    Yeah, right....

    More like "we're done installing rootkits, you can come and pick it up whenever you want".

  • by Kickersny.com ( 913902 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <srekcik>> on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:04AM (#25295737) Homepage

    The email I use for slashdot is far from a critical email address. For my important one(s) I run my own mail server with spam digests (it emails me a list of everything in the quarantine at the end of the week).

    Other than that, I agree with your reply :)

  • Mail it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:13AM (#25295801) Homepage

    Seriously. You will have a tracking number and a guarantee it will arrive. If I have to fly somewhere within the USA my clothes and belongings are going by Fedex. They don't seem to care if my tube of toothpaste is 3.04 ounces.

  • by IanHurst ( 979275 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:33AM (#25295907)
    "I'm not particularly worried about them spying on my files since there isn't anything sensitive there and if there was, I could upload it onto a secure server and then download it once in the States but even that is a somewhat depressing course of action to take when entering the "land of the free"."

    Yeah, and any half assed techie instinctively grasps the former. That we don't seem particularly bothered by the latter is, to me, a much bigger downer. It's one thing to have a technically ignorant policy - what government doesn't have those in spades? It's another to have one that at the very least *seems* to disregard freedom - that appearance alone can harm relations with the rest of the free world for generations. Even under a less pessimistic outlook it will take an election cycle or three. Either way, that's long enough to reek a lot of tangible damage. Sad indeed.

    "It's almost as if they don't want visitors, tourists, skilled workers?"

    I've seen some numbers thrown around showing the amount of tourism money lost in the last several years amounts to some tens of billions of dollars. Which isn't that much on the scale of our whole economy, but it is a quantifiable change for the worse, and so you'd think it would at least have influenced policy by now, because it's just irresponsible to avoid minimizing damage. But then, it's irresponsible government that lead us here, so perhaps it's not that surprising at all.
  • Re:Not necessarily (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:24AM (#25296211)

    I don't have government twits telling me what healthcare I can and can't have.

    The government has screwed over the economy and used fear to enforce security and yet now we're supposed to trust them with our medical services?

    No thank you.

    Or to paraphrase...
    Those who are willing to give up medical freedom for medical security deserve neither.

    Who said universal health care had to involve government administration?

    Just pass strict new regulations:

    A - you must charge a flat rate to all comers, subject to audits against gouging, and regulated the way utilities are regulated.

    B - you must accept any applicant to your medical insurance program, no testing, your economic function is to spread risk not avoid it.

    C - Anyone willing to subject themselves to a full financial audit by the IRS and SEC to prove they are unable to pay the national flat rate can receive a tax credit toward their coverage.

  • Not so fast. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:37AM (#25296253)

    I bought a laptop from a guy in singapore on ebay.

    The thing stayed in a customs warehouse for 20 days because someone tacked some arbitrarily arrived at "extra" duty in addition to the official ones.

  • by lenski ( 96498 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @01:55AM (#25296347)

    In 2005 I allowed my drivers' license to expire on my birthday at the beginning of the month, thinking that I had until the end of the month.

    Traveling 3 days after the "official expiration", I flew to California, and what a pain in the ass that was! I was selected for the extra special search-every-bag at every security checkpoint both out and back.

    I'm guessing that "probable cause" is whatever niggly-ass detail they want it to be.

    Worse yet, my work involves lots of proprietary code, and I support my wife's psychology business accounting work. All that stuff is or should be on an encrypted partition and I can just see that...

    Goon: What's on this encrypted partition?

    Me: Patient mental health records for my wife's psychology business.

    Goon: Decrypt it.

    Me: Certainly, as soon as I have a legally binding signed agreement that all observers agree to the HIPAA privacy agreements that are required for medical records.

    Goon: Step out of the line and come with me, sir.

    < Uh-oh, this is probably not going to work out very well... >

  • Re:Question here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:41AM (#25296529)
    Not a good idea.

    Border guards aren't that stupid, most of them are halfway decent people, but they've got fairly broad ranging powers and nobody likes a smart ass.

    Unless your border guards have had a recent donation from the RIAA/MPAA/BSA they probably don't really care, realistically unless they're bored they're not going to do much about data even if they bother to look at it. It's none of their business and doing anything about it would require filling in paper work.

    On the other hand, if you act like a smart ass and piss them off, you'll probably find your car being taken apart to make sure you don't have any hidden compartments, a cavity search and your drives sent to the appropriate interested parties.

    Never act like a dick to someone who has the power to make your life miserable unless you're damned sure you're right and willing to take the consequences.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @04:40AM (#25297031)
    Any laptop if I go to the US (not that I will, but we'll forgo that point for this rant) would be vanilla xp with office, some non-personal documents, pictures of holidays etc and nothing else. Personal data would be encrypted on a seperate machine and emailed / stored online for retrieval at destination. I'd be sure to epoxy the screws in place, and at least 6 points of the casing so they couldn't slip a little piece of kit onto a spare USB header or whatever.

    If it gets seized / inspected, it's left in its bag for the entire trip, taken home and wiped clean, then sold on eBay. I can buy another laptop without too much hassle.
  • by Timinithis ( 14891 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @05:53AM (#25297355) Homepage

    Anyway. Make an image of your drive. Keep the CD/DVD(s) in your CD case, away from your laptop. Run the factory restore so it has nothing on it except what came from the factory.

    If they take your notebook, they get nothing. If you get through, then restore the image at the hotel and you are good to go.

    A lot of companies are placing the "factory" image on laptops that are going to the US and using VPNs and SSH to let workers connect back to the company.

    The only good this search does is catch the morons (remember the password case for the pedophile?) that can't keep stuff off the laptop.

    IT is a "feel good" measure and does nothing for border security. Bring the uber-secret plans in on a USB drive -- those aren't searched/confiscated. Stupid DHS and government trying to extend its reach into areas without thinking. But this is government, since when did any of them have a brain?

  • by Paleolibertarian ( 930578 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @05:55AM (#25297361) Journal

    Just more silliness from the idiot class that has the reins of power.

    They pass unconstitutional laws then they have to pass more laws to fix the unintended consequences of their stupidity.

    The country needs a SCOTUS with the ability and balls to challenge this crap without first having to wait for a case to be fought all the way up the judicial process. It also needs the ability to fine legislators who pass such unconstitutional drivel. But then that presupposes that the inhabitants of those 9 chairs have good character.

    The country also needs free ice cream.

  • Re:More than a pita (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @06:09AM (#25297417)

    Oops, I just caught that last part (for the US).

    Note that many post offices within a medium to large city do not have general delivery, and mail addressed to these zip codes will either be forwarded to the Main Post Office or returned to sender.

    If a US Post Office doesn't have "General Delivery". Do try and call "Mailbox, Etc." That's a private company that rents out mailboxes in many American cities, and I would almost be sure they do this kind of thing (thought, obviously don't take my word for it, you should call them first).

    As a last resort, you should use a nice hotel for this kind of thing, most nice hotels will hold mail, messages, faxes, and valuables for a long time before you arrive -- as long as you have a reservation for at least one night with them. In fact, I know someone who's an importer/exporter who does that for his business. Everywhere he goes, he stays one night at the Hilton or at some other expensive hotel, this way he can furnish his clients with their address and number. And he also sends out any letters and faxes in batches as soon as he arrives there, this way he'll use their notepad stationary and their fax stationary, and he'll have the staff at the hotel send his stuff from the hotel's mail room and fax machine. And of course, the rest of the time that he's abroad, he'll usually stay at the cheapest places he can afford for the rest of the time.

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antic ( 29198 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @07:57AM (#25297893)

    Friend of mine had customs/whoever want to search his laptop. They said they saw something suspicious (child porn) though I have no idea how given that it wasn't switched on. The guy was travelling with his wife and wouldn't have had anything of the sort on his machine. The only reason he avoided having it searched was that the battery had died, though they asked him to prove it.

    Made me think: if you try the dead battery ruse, if you're holding the laptop, perhaps use the hand supporting the laptop to dislodge the battery slightly when you hit the power button to prove that it's 'out of power'.

  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @09:47AM (#25298817) Homepage
    I know this is veering OT, but I don't understand why the game companies don't put their game on a USB flash drive with some built in hardware encryption, instead of installing crap (DRM) on my computer in the first place. I know it's a little more costly than the CD/DVD DRM stuff, but the fact is it would actually have the potential of working, instead of DRM which really doesn't.
  • Re:Mod parent up. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @12:54PM (#25301621)

    There is no expectation of privacy at an international border. The Court has routinely ruled that the 4th Amendment does not apply.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson