Here’s a few links I’ve run across concerning all the fun now involved in international travel:

-The U.K. will start scanning your face this summer! Next stop for terrorists: the plastic surgeon’s?

From summer, unmanned clearance gates will be phased in to scan passengers’ faces and match the image to the record on the computer chip in their biometric passports.

Border security officials believe the machines can do a better job than humans of screening passports and preventing identity fraud. The pilot project will be open to UK and EU citizens holding new biometric passports.

But there is concern that passengers will react badly to being rejected by an automated gate. [ya think?] To ensure no one on a police watch list is incorrectly let through, the technology will err on the side of caution and is likely to generate a small number of “false negatives” – innocent passengers rejected because the machines cannot match their appearance to the records.

Uuuuugh. Yet another way to treat people as guilty until proven innocent, yet bypass this moral inconvenience by blaming it on the limitations of the machines, you see they’re simply “erring on the side of caution”, that’s understandable isn’t it?

And ya gotta love this part: “Ministers are eager to set up trials in time for the summer holiday rush” – cuz the best time to try out new, inevitably buggy technology is when you’re going to be swamped with irritable people in a huge rush. uuugh.

– The U.K. aren’t the only asshats though, the U.S. is gonna step up info collection as well with some new rules:

Airlines and cruise ship operators must already provide the department with biographical information on international passengers before they leave the country. But this rule would require biometric information — such as fingerprints — to be collected and then transmitted within 24 hours of a visitor leaving the U.S., according to a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

– Cool article from Cnet on how to “customs-proof” your laptop. As they explain:

Customs officials have been stepping up electronic searches of laptops at the border, where travelers enjoy little privacy and have no legal grounds to object. Laptops and other electronic devices can be seized without reason, their contents copied, and the hardware returned hours or even weeks later.

Full of good advice like:

you can set aside a section of your computer’s hard drive to be encrypted. This is the simplest approach because not all the files will be encrypted; the operating system itself and, in most cases, applications you use will remain unencrypted.

– Good discussion here, in the New York Times on the inspection of laptops at borders. The examples they emphasize in the article are, unfortunately, of pedophiles and child pornography fans caught out at borders, which sets it up as difficult to argue against. Who’s gonna protect a pedophile right?

The Cnet article on the other hand emphasizes normal people, or perhaps people with political points of view not popular with the government who get searched. By focusing on pedophiles, we ignore the dangers to average citizens.

Propoents of the searches claim its like searching any print documentation a passenger might be carrying, but some disagree, like Judge Dean D. Pregerson of Federal District Court in Los Angeles, who ruled to dismiss evidence presented against a man found to have child porn on his laptop when he landed at LAX. Says Judge Pregerson in his decision:

“Electronic storage devices function as an extension of our own memory,” Judge Pregerson wrote, in explaining why the government should not be allowed to inspect them without cause. “They are capable of storing our thoughts, ranging from the most whimsical to the most profound.”

I’ve done nothing even nearly criminal on my laptop but I’d still be worried about what could be found to have been a search query in a moment of curiosity, about what weird websites I’ve visited while looking up info relating to a story or even just opening odd links people may have sent me. Having to worry about authorities finding out what I’ve done online, would be a little like worrying about them finding out what I’ve been thinking about. Thought police here we come!

And as a final thought:

“Under the government’s reasoning,” the brief said, “border authorities could systematically collect all of the information contained on every laptop computer, BlackBerry and other electronic device carried across our national borders by every traveler, American or foreign.” That is, the brief said, “simply electronic surveillance after the fact.”

Wheeeeee!

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