So, Australian customs officials are now asking a question on the arrival form that technically requires the traveller to decide whether any photos they have of themselves and their lovers is pornography when in fact the alternative answers might be that is art and that it is definitely none of your business.
In my opinion, a sexual dalliance or an impassioned relationship that a traveller has for whatever reason captured in a naughty, amusing, incandescently erotic or loving image is something that the arguably tormented and conflicted perverts that populate the public debate on pornography and censorship misuse for base political purposes.
The constant if not shrill protestations about child pornography, which is hideously criminal, and needs fierce prosecution, is being exploited as a means of needlessly closing down an open society by leaders who show more than occasional signs of struggling with their own sexual and social demons.
Clearly the question should be “are you carrying any child pornography”, or perhaps “are you carrying any illegal pornography”? If the answer to the former is yes then, as Michael Palin once said in a Monty Python sketch, “go and join the queue in front of the small guillotine”.
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But what should travellers with PCs, iPads, iPods, iPhones and Blackberrys do if confronted by a bored, vindictive or incorrectly briefed border official? Not just here, but anywhere?
Here are some thoughts.
- Know and obey the laws of whichever country you are entering.
- Remove before leaving home anything you don’t want anyone else to see, which most likely will be unencrypted commercially sensitive or client-related information more than raunchy rock clips, or sex so good you recorded it.
- Place vital presentations, documents, diary entries and contact details on a secure remote back-up device you can access online if a border official confiscates your intellectual property (as a consequence of seizing a device on the grounds that it may contain p-rn).
- Remote backup ought to be part of every frequent flyer’s modus operandi anyhow, because one day, an hour before you are to address a conference, or a board, your hard drive is going to go screech and you are really in the cactus without an exact copy.
- Consider using, as many companies do, various encryption programs, some of which can only be unlocked by receiving a key from head office after you arrive. (This means, however, your firm will leave you in jail for however as long as it takes them to agree to, or negotiate away, a demand from another state to unlock the files, so do workshop such a scenario before it arises.)
- If your computer is being taken away for examination, insist on being present when it is examined, and if at all possible, examined in the presence of an independent IT specialist. In short, don’t leave yourself open to being framed, and be mindful of that the fact that almost anything can be downloaded without your knowledge onto your device by programs that run in the background.
- Seek receipts for computer seizures if your request to be present at an immediate search is refused. Keep receipts for all costs or damages arising from this action.
- Ask for a copy of the record of information extracted from the device, and the location and security of that data which has been copied by the border authority, and a record of what other authorities have also been handed your private, personal or business and professional data. (Sweat the bastards.)
- Give the border official a bit of gratuitous porn to keep him or her happy, like the pussy I keep on my Blackberry (below).