EFF's New Guide Helps Travelers Defend Their Data Privacy

Protect Yourself from Intrusive Laptop and Phone Searches at the U.S. Border

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Marcia Hofmann Senior Staff Attorney Electronic Frontier Foundation
marcia@eff.org    +1 415 436-9333 x116
Seth Schoen Senior Staff Technologist Electronic Frontier Foundation
seth@eff.org +1 415 436-9333 x107

Protect Yourself from Intrusive Laptop and Phone Searches at the U.S. Border

EFF’s New Guide Helps Travelers Defend Their Data Privacy

San Francisco – Anytime you travel internationally, you
risk a broad, invasive search of your laptop, phone, and
other digital devices – including the copying of your data
and seizing of your property for an indefinite time. To
help travelers protect themselves and their private
information during the busy holiday travel period, the
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a new report
today with important guidance for safeguarding your
personal data at the U.S border.
Thanks to protections enshrined in the U.S. Constitution,
the government generally can’t snoop through your laptop
for no reason. But the federal government claims those
privacy protections don’t cover travelers at the U.S.
border, allowing agents to take an electronic device,
search through all the files, and keep it for further
scrutiny – without any suspicion of wrongdoing whatsoever.
For business travelers, that could expose sensitive
information like trade secrets, doctor-patient and
attorney-client communications, and research and business
strategies. For others, the data at risk includes personal
health histories, financial records, and private messages
and photos of family and friends. EFF’s new report,
“Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for
Travelers Carrying Digital Devices,” outlines potential
ways to protect that private information, including
minimizing the data you carry with you and employing
“Different people need different kinds of precautions for
protecting their personal information when they travel,”
said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. “Our guide
helps you assess your personal risks and concerns, and
makes recommendations for various scenarios. If you are
traveling over the U.S. border soon, you should read our
guide now and get started on taking precautions before your
Over the past few years, Congress has weighed several bills
to protect travelers from suspicionless searches at the
border, but none has had enough support to become law. You
can join EFF in calling on the Department of Homeland
Security to publish clear guidelines for what they do with
sensitive traveler information collected in digital
searches by signing our petition. You can also test
your knowledge about travelers’ privacy rights and help
spread the word about the risks by taking our border
privacy quiz.
“We store detailed records of our lives on our laptops and
our phones. But the courts have diminished our
constitutional right to privacy at the border,” said EFF
Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “It’s time for
travelers to take action and protect themselves and their
private information during international trips.”
For Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for
Travelers Carrying Digital Devices:
To take the border privacy quiz:
To sign the petition:
For this release:
About EFF
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading
organization protecting civil liberties in the digital
world. Founded in 1990, we defend free speech online, fight
illegal surveillance, promote the rights of digital
innovators, and work to ensure that the rights and freedoms
we enjoy are enhanced, rather than eroded, as our use of
technology grows. EFF is a member-supported organization.
Find out more at https://www.eff.org.

One thought on “EFF's New Guide Helps Travelers Defend Their Data Privacy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *