I have ripped some of my DVD series to my phone and laptop so I do not need to waste space and battery with the extra discs.

But what happens when I am traveling, say from Europe->USA or Europe->Asia, and the police goes through my files and finds those? And what to say if they ask questions?

  • Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/8577/…
    – user981916
    Jan 29, 2013 at 10:59
  • 3
    I think they have bigger fish to fry, and they don't have time to browse all the drives of all the tourists.
    – travelot
    Jan 29, 2013 at 11:13
  • 2
    What would be the logic behind that? "Guilty until proven innocent"? Do you carry proof of purchase for all the items you have with you? Proof of purchase for the clothes you have on you?
    – vartec
    Jan 29, 2013 at 13:59
  • If you have something with you, there's an assumption it's yours until you're able to prove otherwise. Sep 18, 2018 at 6:52

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't worry about it. Other than wikileaks activists, I've never heard of anyone having the data on their electronic devices searched when entering/departing the U.S. or Europe.

If it's going to cause you anxiety and make you act strange, however, it would be better to delete the files just to give you peace of mind. This is not because there is any chance that the files would get you into trouble, but because acting strange could cause trouble.

  • Also of note is that the average customs officer won't know how to circumvent some elementary measures to hide the content. As long as the content itself is not something illegal (certain types of.. adult "entertainment", say), it should be okay. Jan 29, 2013 at 12:16
  • 1
    You can always encrypt your personal information using free tools like TrueCrypt. It is not yet clear if in the event they requiere to analyze your computer you are obligated to provide your encryption key.
    – JordanBelf
    Jan 29, 2013 at 15:33
  • 2
    If you are in a UK airport, you are obligated to provide your truecrypt password to the authorities if they ask.Refusal IS treated as a guilty until proven innocent scenario!
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 30, 2013 at 7:51
  • You have the option to create hidden volumes within an encrypted volume. That way, you can hand over the key, but still not reveal everything (at once).
    – pleinolijf
    Jan 30, 2013 at 15:13

I would not worry about this. I have never seen any officer opening a laptop and looking at the contents. What they did at one point some years ago was asking people to switch them on to make sure it's not a disguised bomb but actually a working laptop.

Custom officers are more worried about fake goods when people come from certain Asian countries, and duties payable when importing goods.

So on your PC or phone memory, you most likely will not have any issues. If you carry ripped DVDs around you that are marked with movie titles handwritten on them, you will be in trouble for sure.

Naming your files "Xmas Ski Videos" will also be better than the actual film title. Be aware that locking your windows with a password or other methods of locking them away does not necessarily help since there are countries (like the UK) where keeping an encryption key or password secret from the police is already a criminal offense.

Obscuring data is better than locking it away. Truecrypt can do that, too. One other option that you have is to simply create a partition, putting your files in there and dismounting the partition.

As a general guideline for passing customs: The more nervous you are, the easier they spot that and pull you out. Keep your hands in your pockets or hold your bags, do not fidget around and rather look at them as if you are inspecting their uniform. People who try to look away, cover their face or act generally nervously will be pulled out much more often for routine controls.

  • In the UK, keeping an encryption key secret from the police is only a crime if they have a search warrant for you, and for that they would need some reason to believe that proof of a crime which they are investigating is on your computer. So they'd need for example a witness who observed you copying DVDs in a store onto your computer, plus actually get a search warrant because of that.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 26, 2014 at 17:12

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