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US Customs and e-Devices


    Traveling to the US these days has become more complicated, especially if you bring any kind of electronic device(s) along. “Border agents may demand that you unlock your phone, provide your laptop password, or disclose your social media handles.” 

      Every text message, email, and private message you’ve ever sent to a loved one, including every web search you’ve ever conducted, and — through your bank account and PayPal records —  data about every purchase you’ve ever made and every organization you’d ever donated money to can be harvested. And that’s just some of the information that we keep on our devices. 

      The customs agent not only wants to open your locked device(s) ,— he also wants to copy all of its contents and store them forever in a database, which will be shared with all manner of law enforcement agencies and tax agencies, and will eventually be available to anyone working in any capacity in the government without the need for a warrant.

      Since this is the Land of the Free, even if you are not a citizen you can surely find protection under The Constitution, right? 
  • The Fourth Amendment protects privacy for all, against unreasonable searches and seizures, specifically: 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…
  • The Fifth Amendment protects for all, against self-incrimination, which in turn protects the privacy of personal information
  • 1948 resolution: The right to privacy is explicitly stated under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

      Sadly, no help there. Border agents have long had the right to search travelers' physical luggage without a warrant, and that interpretation has been expanded to include digital devices, ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said.

     In 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if agents want to do a forensic search they need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. But the court stopped short of requiring agents to obtain a search warrant beforehand.

      Refusing a search does not give agents probable cause for a search.

      So where does that leave you? Non-U.S. citizen travelers who refuse can be denied entry.

      As scary as that sounds, don’t cancel your trip. Many experts suggest leaving your device(s) at home. Purchase a cheap phone after you successfully get through customs. If you’re like me, you have gobs of contacts, all with multiple phone numbers, email and snail addresses. Not to mention all of your social media and online accounts you need access to. I don’t want to haul around a briefcase stacked with reams of paper filled with sensitive information. 

      Probably the best option would be, to backup your device(s) to the Cloud. Perform a system restart, and wipe the device(s) clean. Once through customs, you can re-connect to the Cloud and execute a full restore. Click here for more info

      This is a fluid situation at the moment, the following resources will help keep you informed (https://www.eff.org/) and (https://www.aclu.org/), as well as right here. Hopefully you won’t run into any problems with US Customs.















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