Guest Column: On TSA Laptop Searches

January 19, 2010 -

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!

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Andrew EisenAnd, predictably, it encouraged more parody accounts, having the exact opposite effect than what was intended.09/21/2014 - 7:07pm
E. Zachary KnightThis is called a police state people. When public officials can send SWAT raids after anyone for any offense, we are no longer free.09/21/2014 - 6:41pm
E. Zachary KnightJudge rules SWAT raid tageting parody Twitter account was justified. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/19/illinois-judge-swat-raid-parody-twitter-peoria-mayor09/21/2014 - 6:41pm
MechaTama31quik: But even if it did break, at worst it is only as bad as the powder. Even that is assuming that it is dangerous through skin contact, which is not a given if its delivery vehicle is a syringe.09/21/2014 - 4:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2014/09/20/isis-uses-gta-5-in-new-teen-recruitment-video/09/21/2014 - 4:25pm
quiknkoldSyringes can break. And in a transcontinental delivery, the glass could've broken when crushed. I work in a mail center. Shit like this is super serious09/21/2014 - 3:25pm
E. Zachary KnightIt doesn't matter what is inside the needle. As long as it requires him to take the step of purposefully injecting himself, the threat of the substance is as close to zero as you can get.09/21/2014 - 1:27pm
quiknkoldEzach: I'm not talking about the needle. I'm talking about what's inside. Geeze. Depending on what it is, the sender could be guilty of bioterrorism.09/21/2014 - 12:51pm
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, No. That syringe is not worse than white powder or a bomb. The syringe requires the recipient to actually inject themselves. Not true for other mail threats.09/21/2014 - 12:49pm
Andrew EisenThe closest to a threat I ever received was a handwritten note slipped under my door that read "I KNOW it was you." Still no idea what that was about. I think the author must have got the wrong apartment.09/21/2014 - 12:28pm
InfophileThat's what they call it? I always called it hydroxic acid...09/21/2014 - 11:57am
MaskedPixelanteProbably dihydrogen monoxide, the most dangerous substance in the universe.09/21/2014 - 10:14am
james_fudgewell I hope he called the police so they can let us all know.09/21/2014 - 9:07am
quiknkoldIt's pretty gnarly. Depending on what it is, it could be worse than white powder or a fake bomb.09/21/2014 - 9:06am
james_fudgeI just looked it up on UPS.com09/21/2014 - 8:56am
james_fudgeand expensive for an American to ship to London.09/21/2014 - 8:55am
E. Zachary KnightThat is pretty scary. Would have been worse if it were a fake bomb or white powder.09/21/2014 - 8:49am
quiknkoldThere's some more tweets regarding it with more pictures09/21/2014 - 8:09am
quiknkoldMilo Yiannopoulos was mailed a syringe filled with clear liquid. He claims it's anti gamergate harassment. Mentioned on his twitter twitter.com/Nero/status/51366668391625523209/21/2014 - 8:07am
Andrew EisenNow, having said that, what sites are you reading that are claiming that if "you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem" or that gamers are "obligated to stop harassment"? Or was that hyperbole too?09/21/2014 - 1:03am
 

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