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Blog Posted in avatar   Leigh Goessl's Blog

Has government gone too far with taking liberal actions with technology/business data?

By Leigh Goessl
Posted Jan 10, 2012 in Business
Last year a computer security consultant's laptop was seized when traveling back from a trip to Mexico. Reportedly the man brought his laptop to do some work in between vacation activities. All went smoothly until he returned to the U.S. and his point of entry was at a Chicago airport where his laptop, camera and a USB were seized.
No warrant, no arrest, and according to lawyers, no probable cause. Civil liberties advocates call these areas, such as the airport, a "Constitution-free zone".
ACLU is currently suing the U.S. Government in relation to this incident where the laptop was kept for two months.
The Boston Globe recently brought up several issues society is currently faced with, further elaborated on by Sophos Security, but this post is related to business data.
Sophos illustrates there is a law called the Uniform Trade Secrets Act that is supposed to help see business trade secrets are protected, however the problem is not all states have signed on for it.
The man is concerned about the sensitive business data he carried as he has no idea who/how/what had access to it while his property was out of his possession. Seemingly his laptop was seized as officials were interested in his connection to Bradley Manning, but he is worried copies may have been made of all his data (not necessarily Manning related from my understanding) and wants to know what agencies had access to it.
Many individuals travel, either for personal or business, and do not realize their electronics can be taken, and this can potentially put businesses into a sticky situation if it happens, especially with sensitive data and confidentiality agreements with clients.
The Globe piece reported the Association of Corporate Travel Executives found "nearly half of the participating companies did not know customs agents could inspect, copy, or even seize travelers’ laptops."
No matter how you look at it, lots of problems can emerge for businesses.
There appear to be lots of grey areas where technology is concerned and this is just one of many. Then there are privacy issues, which has been demonstrated over and over again with various TSA incidents that hit the media where travelers feel their rights and privacies have been violated.
In the age of mobile these issues are perhaps exemplified even further. The balance between security and privacy is a tricky one, however for businesses carrying proprietary or sensitive/confidential client information, it opens up a different can of worms.

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