THERE ARE MANY REASONS why I try not to carry a laptop when flying out of the country. I have seen border police power up laptops and scan their contents. Although I have not seen anyone actually cable out the contents, I once traveled into a southwest Asian country where my laptop was impounded overnight. I have no idea if it was powered up for data transfer. I don't think they read my copyright warning. I know the ever-vigilant TSA guardians can ask to see anything electronic that you're carrying. They owe no one the duty of confidentiality. I don't want them flicking through the contents of my hard drive.
Some of my friends don't believe it's reasonable to have someone page through the contents of their Blackberry. But that happens. When crossing from Canada into the USA, a Quebec man who refused to provide his password to border guards had his laptop impounded. A grand jury convened to force disclosure of the password but the action was overturned.
In today's world of frequent hassles in the security scrum, what constitutes reasonable search and seizure? Ever try to argue the case with the learned TSA cadre?
I won't even approach the question so I try to travel without a laptop. And when I do have to carry a laptop, I strip as much data from its hard drive as possible. This should be considered carefully by Irish entrepreneurs who need to move across national borders to meet clients with their laptops under arms. Your business interests often reside on your laptop. Sometimes you have diagrams that show details of trade secrets, items you might patent, or business processes that show real but compartmentalised relationships between potential partners. If someone in the Department of Homeland Security pulls off all your Word documents, Powerpoint slides and CAD renderings for documentation as part of a weekly published report, is your business compromised? If your entire contact management database is copied over to a US Customs hard drive, have you violated European Data Protection Statutes? If any of these scenarios leave you uncomfortable, I would consider setting up encrypted partitions on your hard drive where you keep your most sensitive data. Better yet, I would maintain all business data inside an electronic vault on an encrypted thumb drive. Nowadays, I think you need robust firewall protection when crossing international borders.