Thursday, June 26, 2008, 6/26/2008 11:06:00 AM

Laptop Seizures at U.S. Borders Implicates Trade Secret Concerns

By Todd
The United States Congress is attempting to investigate reports of widespread laptop seizures by U.S. Customs Officials of business travelers going, and coming from, abroad. The same implicates troubling consequences were foreign countries to engage in the same behavior at their borders.

The laptop seizures have proved especially worrisome for business travelers, who could be crippled if they were unable to access data on a laptop seized by the government, said Susan Gurley, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

A survey of business travelers found that 7 percent had their laptops or other electronic device seized by the government, Gurley testified.

“Generally speaking, customs officials do not go through briefcases to review and copy paper business records or personal diaries, which is apparently what they are now doing now in digital form—these PDA’s don’t have bombs in them,” says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

More troubling is what could happen if other countries follow the lead of the United States. Imagine, for instance, if China or Russia began a program to seize and duplicate the contents of traveler’s laptops. “We wouldn’t be in a position to strongly object to that type of behavior,” Rotenberg says. Indeed, visitors to the Beijing Olympic Games have been officially advised by U.S. officials that their laptops may be targeted for duplication or bugging by Chinese government spies hoping to steal business and trade secrets.

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