US border control seizes your laptops, iPods, cellphones

From the front-page of the Washington Post today comes a scary tale of the legal seizure of electronics at US immigration checkpoints. Many travelers flying into the US have complained about being forced to turn over their iPods, laptops, and cellphones to agents for examination. Often times the data subsequently gets copied–or worse.

It’s probably not surprising that most of the victims are of Muslim or Southeast Asian descent. Because of this policy, several corporations are requiring their business travelers to carry “blank laptops.”

In Canada, one law firm has instructed its lawyers to travel to the United States with “blank laptops” whose hard drives contain no data. “We just access our information through the Internet,” said Lou Brzezinski, a partner at Blaney McMurtry, a major Toronto law firm. That approach also holds risks, but “those are hacking risks as opposed to search risks,” he said.

Update: Turns out the TSA says this shouldn’t be happening. Read their response.