Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The New Paranoia

I have friends who practice ultra-safe computing when crossing borders: examine their computers and you'll find yourself on something almost data-free, so you'd not be looking at encrypted files, you'd simply not be looking at files -- the same kinds of things that Cory Doctorow describes in Little Brother.

And I've always thought they were being, well, silly.

And then I read, in the LA Times, an article that began:

Authorities need a search warrant to get at a computer in your home, and reasonable suspicion that you're up to no good to search your laptop in other places (like if you're surfing bomb-making sites while using WiFi at a coffee shop).

But the rules change when you're crossing the border back into the United States. And that has raised concerns from business travelers, privacy advocates and some lawmakers about the vulnerability of the huge amounts of information people carry on their laptops and other digital devices.

The legality of the practice hinges around whether searching a laptop is the equivalent of looking in your luggage, or more like a strip search.

U.S. Courts have ruled, as recently as this spring in a case stemming from a search at LAX, that there's no need for warrants or suspicions when a person is seeking to enter the country because any "routine search" is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. In effect, it's like luggage: anything and everything in your laptop, cellphone, BlackBerry or digital camera can be examined and copied by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

And also copy any songs or films from my iPod, I assume...

Which leaves me going "Yes. And customs has the right to inspect a book I'm reading, but not the right to make a copy of the book. Why would they have the right to copy my data?" It seems deeply wrong. Or like I may, at least in the world of computing, find myself joining the ranks of the friends I always thought were maybe just an eensy weensy little bit paranoid.

Hi Neil! I see you answered this person's question if you're going anywhere else here in Brazil other then Paraty.

And you also said that you have to wait and see if you will be able to do a book signing or not. Well I called Casa Azul (the institution that is organizing the FLIP event) and they said that it is up to each author if they want to have a book signig section or not after they lecture, and a book signing booth will be set up and ready for the authors who agree.

So the main thing is, since it is up to you I would like to know if you will agree on having a book signing/meet and greet, for it will be the only reason for me to travel so far, so I can meet one of my idols.

Hope to see you there!



If it's up to me, then I'm sure I'll be doing a signing.

A few weeks ago I bought tickets for your night in Tulsa, OK. Today, as I went to search again for dates, I'm seeing rumors that the event has been cancelled. All traces of this event have been removed from Mammoth comic's website and Am I missing something here? Is the FBI reprogramming my memory? Or, quite simply, is the event cancelled. Why am I the last to know these things? Anyway, hope you're having a lovely day and I will have to send my copy of American Gods to you to be signed. It is a very special copy you know, belonged to my late best friend, Adam. Goodness, I'm rambling...good evening.

Jaclyn Long

It was definitely cancelled, I'm afraid. I'm astonished that Mammoth Comics have simply vanished any mention of it, rather than putting up information to let people know that it was cancelled, and to make it easy for any tickets to be refunded. When I was told that the event had been cancelled I was also told that they'd make sure that people knew and that it would be made easy for people to refund their tickets... [Edit to add -- Shawn from Mammoth Comics got in touch and it looks like it's a bit messier than that, and some of the mess seems to have come from the people representing me. But now I know that there's a communications breakdown, it'll get sorted.]

Sorry that it's not up as a cancelled event at the Where's Neil address, it was meant to have been. (I really, really miss the old blog system of Where's Neil. It drove everyone else mad, especially the folk running the website, but it meant that events didn't simply vanish once they'd happened, and it was easy for information to go up and hang around.)

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