A new smart phone security guide protects sensitive information when crossing the Canada-U.S. border.
It shows you how you can prevent border agents from having access to that information.
The guide was released by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association(BCCLA).
It is designed to help travellers going between Canada and the U.S. so that their personal information cannot be viewed, used or stored by border agents in either country.
As it stands right now border agents can search anything they want.
They don’t need a court warrant or even have a reasonable suspicion.
They can just search.
Here is what Meghan McDermott, staff lawyer with the BCCLA says:
“What the privacy commissioner of Canada is recommending — and we do agree with him — is that the best protection is to leave your devices at home,” says McDermott. “However we do realize that is inconvenient — especially if you’re traveling for work, it’s just not an option to leave your device at home for many people. So [the handbook] provides practical tips on how you can best mitigate the risk of your privacy being invaded. Everything from switching off your computer or smart phone right before you get to the border, to making secure backups of everything in advance.”
Right now the law says that any officer with the Canadian Border Services Agency or U.S. customs search the contents of electronic devices of anyone crossing the border.
This applies to whether you are flying, going by car, or using a ferry.
And there is a fly in the ointment.
Currently the law allows you to walk away or withdraw if being questioned.
But a new Canadian law will give U.S. customs officers more power during the pre-clearance process.
The Canadian government has passed the law but has not enact it – but it is expected this will happen soon.
Under the new law – if you want to withdraw from the pre-clearance area – U.S. border officers can start a whole new line of questioning. They then will be allowed to identify you, question you as long as they on why you chose to leave the pre-clearance area and they are satisfied with your answers.
And the BCCLA will update its guide when the new law comes into effect.