This guest post was written by Richard Douglas. His blog is called Too Many Secrets.
If you travel a lot, you should prepare yourself to be searched and asked a few questions. Mike wrote about laptop and cell phone search and seizure before the Paris meet-up.
The US Customs and Border Service has posted their official policy here.
It happens all the time and it is nothing to be alarmed about. Many countries have broad search authority, not just the US Border Service – try entering and departing from Havana, Cuba, with a digital camera and a laptop. 😉
Here are a few simple tips that should cut down your odds of being searched at border crossings, US or otherwise.
1. Dress well. Put on a shirt, pants, jacket etc and look like you’re an important guy. If you keep wearing those t-shirts and shorts no one will take you seriously.
2. Eye contact. Make eye contact with the border agent and smile. I guarantee you that if you cannot and do not maintain eye contact, they will be suspicious of you. And if you have that t-shirt and shorts on, they’ll pull you over for sure.
3. Be polite. If you are a jerk, they will search you. Yep, I see the jerks get taken into that back room all the time.
4. Pick a good job title and reason for travel. Even though you are a domainer or web developer, the border agents have no idea what that means. So speak their language and tell them you are an executive at an internet company or the President of XYZ Company etc. And tell them you are traveling on business to meet with clients, meet with the bank etc. Don’t tell them you were doing body shots all weekend with two sisters you met on the beach.
5. Protect your data. Don’t carry data you don’t need. Remotely access your email or docs or spreadsheets. There are lots of solutions from simple to rock solid secure to do this.
6. Use encryption. If you have to carry data or if you acquire data while you are away on your trip (say from two sisters you met on the beach) then use strong encryption for your email, hard disk, USB drive, flash card etc. By strong encryption, I mean 4096 bits, not 768 or 1024.
It is pretty common to get distracted when crossing borders while you look for your ID, fill out the paperwork, try and remember what to declare etc. I think you will find that these simple tips will make your border crossings a little easier.