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Storing files in the cloud, border searches and Windows Skydrive

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 1-Jan-2014 13:42

Just something that popped here and got me thinking… From TechDirt “Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn't Keep Important Info On Your Computer”:

“He goes on to suggest that since traveling internationally involves going into other countries, these same people would probably have even less privacy over their data, since other countries may be even more willing to search their computers. He even cites the situation of David Miranda having his electronics searched in the UK.

Surely, Pascal Abidor cannot be so naive to expect that when he crosses the Syrian or Lebanese border that the contents of his computer will be immune from searches and seizures at the whim of those who work for Bassar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah. Indeed, the New York Times recently reported on the saga of David Michael Miranda who was detained for nine hours by British authorities "while on a stop in London's Heathrow airport during a trip from Germany to Brazil."

While the judge's point is correct that other countries are unlikely to protect the privacy of travelers (sic) as well, and that means that any information on a laptop may be inherently unsafe, it seems like a bit of a weak copout to argue that since other countries have no respect for your electronic privacy, that the US shouldn't either.

He goes even further, arguing that because there's a "special need" at the border to stop bad people, that it's perfectly fine to ignore things like probable cause or reasonable suspicion -- again quoting Michael Chertoff to suggest that border laptop searches have stopped "bad people" from entering the US.”

Sure, one could think that storing data online (“cloud services” such as Microsoft Skydrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and many others) then local search of an electronic device would have a much lesser impact in privacy.

But what about when the cloud service is tightly integrated into the OS, such as Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Skydrive? If you use an online account to login into Windows 8.1 then it automatically link into Skydrive and make access to it transparent (files are still stored locally only if you set those to be available offline though). Disconnecting the account is not easily done in this OS. The option would be to have a separate password or PIN to access the Skydrive app or to start downloads if the file is only available online.

Border offices wanting access to the laptop would ask for the password to the device, which could be freely given while still maintaining the files safely away. The argument here would be that border officials are inspecting the physical device crossing the border, which would be unrelated to the cloud service itself.

What do you think?



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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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