International Electronic Privacy

In recent times, the threat of privacy invasions has spread far beyond domestic governmental agencies, but to also include foreign and international governments. Do you travel outside of the United States? Do you travel with electronic devices, such as a cellphone or laptop? Do these devices hold any sensitive information, such as passwords or confidential communications? If yes, then your electronic privacy may be compromised when you travel abroad.

What Is the Threat to Privacy Abroad?

The simple truth is that border patrol agents in countries around the world take data from cellphones, laptops, and other electronic devices as tourists cross their borders. This data can include, but is certainly not limited to, passwords, files, and emails. Although, this is a common practice around the world, most tourists have no idea that their personal information becomes increasingly more vulnerable to invasions of privacy when they leave the United States. Indeed, the threat extends to hotels that may extract information from electronic devices through their free wireless systems.

Foreign countries may target different individuals for various types of information. For instance, journalists and lawyers hold information regarding valuable contacts, whereas professors and students may have confidential and sensitive research data. Additionally, business travelers will hold trade secrets and communications regarding valuable entrepreneurial efforts. Indeed, all of these types of information can stand to be very beneficial for foreign countries, while causing devastating consequences for Americans. In a globalized economy where information holds real value, learning a competitor’s research techniques carries serious financial incentives.

What Steps Can We Take to Protect Privacy?

Travelers can certainly take steps to protect their privacy as they enter other countries. Indeed, President Obama has acknowledged the threat to privacy, and has insisted on the need for measures to protect private and public individuals’ information. For example, turning on password protections for cellphones and computers provides an added level of security for sensitive information. Using encryption to protect confidential information is a good tool. Using disposable, inexpensive phones, also limits the wealth of information that would otherwise be available through a smartphone. Furthermore, while abroad, travelers can take steps to store information on other sources, rather than traveling with sensitive information. For example, they can store sensitive information on external hard drives–to the extent they will not need the data abroad. Travelers can also leave any unnecessary electronic devices at home to avoid the threat to privacy. However, this may be a difficult step for travelers who are visiting other countries for purposes that require access to such sensitive information. Indeed, a business traveler cannot adequately conduct business abroad without the requisite business information at hand in the foreign country. Nonetheless, to the extent that such precautionary steps are possible, travelers can take care to provide for greater privacy.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide our clients in legal matters regarding all aspects of cyberspace law and privacy issues by using extensive knowledge and skills to create innovative solutions. You may contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.