zen.org Communal Weblog

June 29, 2006

Canada's got its own porn, eh?

Filed under: — brendan @ 00:29 GMT

Going through immigration in Ottawa yesterday, the nice lady asked me a bunch of questions. She finished with, “Do you have a computer with you?” I replied that yes, I had a laptop (as would lots of other people at the GCC Developers Summit I’m attending). Boy was “yes” a wrong answer.
I was sent to a mystical back room for a further search. A big guy in a police uniform did a cursory look at my two bags, then focused primarily on my laptop. He opened it, turned it on, asked me to log in, and with the screen turned away from me proceeded to click his way around the system. (It’s my backup laptop running a 2-letter commercial O$ … I so wished I had Linux on it instead, just to see if they’ve any idea what to do.)

He explained he was looking for “objectionable material, which most people think is just child pornography.” Nope, it’s anything that may cause offence (left to be defined) including “beastiality” and anything that is “traitorous”.

I asked if there’s a list somewhere listing what they go looking for; he repiled, “Well, if there’s any kind of a match there’s a database we consult,” and continued—click, clickclick. “Do you use your computer to connect to the Internet?”

What the hell kind of question is that? I felt like I was back in 1984 dialing up to Telenet.

I just stood there looking around, my brain pondering all sorts of things: is the arbitrary examination of your personal files legal? What would he do if it were any other OS? Why would anyone transporting illegal stuff like child porn leave it in any form this guy with Windows Explorer could find? Why not encrypt it all and rename it to “quicken.exe”? Why not just wait and download everything over a secure link once you’ve gotten to your hotel? The possibilites are endless.

When he’d finally seen enough to satisfy himself, he gave me the laptop back and said I could leave. Meanwhile my friend Doug’s out in the baggage area waiting to see if I’d ever show up after walking up to the immigration people at the same time.

I still wonder if it’s equally legal to open up a binder full of paper and start reading what’s on the sheets, waiting to see something derogatory about the Prime Minister.

Canada appears to have its own Department of Homeland Decency.

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