Man Arrested At Border For Refusing To Hand Over Phone Passcode

CNet wrote about a man who was arrested at the Halifax (Canada) airport for refusing to hand over the passcode for his cellphone to the Canadian border agents.

Even if you are not paranoid, it should make you think about what gadgets you take across the border.  Here are some details of this case.

He runs the risk of a fine of between $1,000 to $25,000 plus possible jail time.  His hearing is scheduled for May 12.

The Canadian customs act authorizes officers to examine all goods and conveyances.  That includes cell phones and laptops.

The CBC reports that the issue of giving your passcode to border agents has never been litigated in Canada.

In The U.S., the Fifth Amendment  exists to protect you from incriminating yourself.  Most courts agree that passcodes are testimony, but there have been some dissenters.  There was a case in Denver where a man was ordered to unlock his laptop and another recent decision about unlocking an iPhone that was locked with a fingerprint, but neither of these cases made it to the appellate level.

U.S. border agents have similar authority as Canadian agents.  They don’t need warrants and they don’t need probable cause.

Two  good practices when you travel abroad are (a) don’t have illegal stuff on your gadgets and (b) to the maximum extent possible, don’t take your digital gadgets across the border.  Remember, we are talking about both U.S. and foreign border agents.

There are lots of techniques to consider  such as using a VPN to eliminate the need to carry data across the border.

Even if you are not concerned about the border guys looking at your laptop, there is one thing I would definitely recommend and that is to make sure that you have a good backup of your phone, tablet and laptop – whatever toys you do take with you.  U.S. Customs can legally keep your toys for 30 days if they decide they want to with no warrant and very limited probably cause, which means you would lose access to your data and, of course, your toys could get lost or stolen abroad, just like at any other time.

Just food for thought.

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