Several newly launched initiatives in the U.S. and other countries aim to allow governments to mine our personal data at border crossings. Legislation in the U.S. and Australia would give governments great freedom to search – and in some cases seize – our personal electronic devices.

U.S. Homeland Security can now seize laptops and other electronic devices taken across the border and hold them for an indefinite period, copying hard drives without need of warrants or probable cause. Officials are authorized to deep-scan hard drives to detect terrorists, drug smugglers, and copyright infringers.

“In the course of a border search, and absent individualized suspicion, officers can review and analyze the information transported by any individual attempting to enter, reenter, depart, pass through, or reside in the United States,” says the policy, published July 16th. (Policy 1, Policy 2).

Also searchable under this policy are hard drives, compact discs, DVDs, flash drives, portable music players, cell phones, pagers, beepers, and videotapes.

Australia is considering legislation that will allow airport security to search portable media players for pirated media, subjecting those found with large amounts of illegally copied music with fines or jail time.

Called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, this is part of a treaty proposal involving the US, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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