"Given that the majority of corporate PCs are laptops now, your data is now more vulnerable," says the EFF's O'Brien.
"You might want to consider limiting the data on your laptop to what you are willing to share with the government," says Kevin Clark, network operations manager of Clearpointe, a managed services provider.
"I would never travel with any data that I cared about anyway," says John Kindervag, a senior analyst for Forrester Research. "I would put it on my iPod or encrypt it." Certainly, "you should have been encrypting the hard drives of your laptops; these are just more reasons to do so," says Gartner's Pescatore.
But using encryption is no guarantee that the government won't obtain your employee's data, according to legal authorities, especially if a security screener demands your password to decrypt your files. "We would say that you have some strong protections against giving out your password, and believe that falls under self-incrimination," says the EFF's O'Brien. Other lawyers agree that requiring users to give up their passwords to the government could fall under the category of unreasonable searches that the courts have long ruled are impermissible, but they note that overall case law is still evolving, so there's no hard-and-fast rule to rely on.
"A lot of this is just security theater," says Forrester's Kindervag, meaning it's just for show. He was detained -- although not at an airport -- and "I stood my ground and refused to give up my data, and eventually the screener backed down." Clearly, one prudent course of action is to have ready access to legal counsel when returning to the United States.
If your execs' laptops are impounded, you have several critical issues to address. First, do you have the executives' data backed up so that you can get them up and running quickly on new computers? Second, is sensitive data protected from prying eyes -- whether bored screeners or investigating authorities? This is where having the cleaned "travel laptop" begins to sound compelling. Finally, does this change your corporate policies on other mobile devices besides laptops, such as smartphones and PDAs that often have all sorts of personal and customer confidential information on them?
Net neutrality: Carrier controls could limit remote work and cloud computing
The topic of Net neutrality also has unintended consequence for IT managers. The concept of Net neutrality is that all Internet traffic should be treated the same and not prioritized (in terms of service or price) by the carriers. The carriers have justified non-neutral traffic management, such as metering and blocking, as necessary because of a few people who continually access large video files or play bandwidth-intensive games. The carriers argue this traffic fills their networks and gets in the way of everyone else's access to the Internet. They also cite the rise of peer-to-peer sharing of music and video files, which the entertainment industry says is a form of theft.