Dept. of Homeland Security: We can seize, keep your laptop without cause

The Washington Post had an interesting article yesterday detailing new border search policies that the Department of Homeland Security recently made public.

The policies are for two DHS agencies — U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and allow federal agents to seize your laptop computer and other electronic devices — like iPods, PDAs, hard drives — take them to an off-site location and keep them for an indeterminate amount of time, the Post reports.

And there doesn’t have to be any suspicion of wrongdoing for this to happen. It can be random and arbitrary.

“The most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers and other electronic devices. Searches have uncovered violent jihadist materials as well as images of child pornography,” says DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in a recent Op-Ed for USA Today.

The policies cover “any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form,” the Post quotes the DHS.

What’s more, the policies give the government the power to share your data across multiple agencies outside the DHS, and even with private entities, for things like translation and data decryption.

The DHS says it is making efforts to protect things like attorney-client privilege and sensitive corporate material. However, as the Post reports, little thought has has been given to protecting everyday people’s financial and medical records.