Sooner or later, most gamers will face the dreaded scenario of having to leave their desktop PC's and consoles behind and suffer through the misery of modern air travel.
Domestic travelers have become familiar with intrusions and searches at Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints. But as the ACLU has recently discovered, international travelers are not only having their laptops seized and searched by Customs and Border Protection, but agents are making copies of files and giving them to third-party agencies. The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government, which turned over hundreds of pages of documents revealing startling information about how much access—and how little oversight—agents have to your gaming laptops when you travel.
For instance, over a period of nine months, CBP agents searched over 1,500 devices, including laptops, thumb drives, cell phones, and DVDs. Last year, agents transferred 282 files from these devices to third-parties. Under current policy, CBP is not required to justify the searches. Interestingly, of those files, only four were justified under "national security" concerns, and apparently encrypted files were sent to unknown agencies for "translation/decryption".
Several spreadsheets containing summaries of the data (as well as detailed information on each incident, if you're so inclined) are available from the ACLU; a further list of documents and correspondence released from CBP can be found here.
Dan Rosenthal is a legal analyst for the games industry.
GP: Dan offers a unique vantage point to a lot of the topics we talk about here and it's our hope that he'll contribute more pieces going forward. Please welcome him aboard!