back to article Canada's privacy watchdog probes US border phone seizures

The Canadian privacy commissioner has opened an investigation into the Canadian border police and a recent uptick in phone seizures. The commissioner has received a number of complaints from Canadian citizens about their phones being taken from them at the US border and wants to know exactly what the border police are doing …

  1. NoneSuch
    Big Brother

    Reset your phone

    Reset your devices before handing them over and after getting them back.

    Will clear out the clutter as well, as an added bonus.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Reset your phone

      A reset does not remove state sponsored surveillance.

      My solution is a disposable phone (and old laptop). Some usable Android tablets are under $60.

      I'd not take any important or personal electronic equipment to USA or some other countries.

    2. John Miles

      Re: Reset your phone

      the risk is that will draw attention to yourself and if there is anything you don't want is to give them more reasons to bully investigate further

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Reset your phone

        Nokia 3310 FTW.

        All they get when they dump all of your app data is your high score to Snake.

      2. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        Re: Reset your phone

        your options are 1. kowtow the goon on the border, 2. become a human rights activist, 3. stay at home.

        number 3 for me.

  2. Christoph

    You still get hit if your friends travel

    If you've friended someone on for instance Facebook so they can see your restricted postings, and they travel to the US and get their phone searched, the program which sucks down all their data will be able to see and download those restricted postings of yours as well. Plus for instance profile information which was similarly restricted.

    If you travel to the US with a device which can log on to FB or other social media, you are betraying the confidence which your friends placed in you when they allowed you access to their information.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: You still get hit if your friends travel

      Friends don't put any of your info on Facebook.

      Really good friends don't use Facebook, or else only anonymously with fake ID for non-personal purposes.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Politicians know what to do

    .. they're just too scared to do it.

    Ask every American passport holder leaving the Land of the Orange to:

    a. submit their full personal data in advance to any nation they will travel to;

    b. offer their phones for access and copy;

    c. offer access to any laptop they may carry, and use that to visibly clone the data

    .. to establish some symmetry in the process. That's the only way you'll get them to the table to discuss changing this malarkey. If they need any motivation you could use a number of studies that disproved the travel ban that established in the process that most "bad guys" were already living in the US, so that's clearly where the risk is coming from.

    Anyone objecting to this will secretly be entered on an EU no fly list or the list of people who get every time "randomly" selected for the fat fingered treatment. Speaking of an EU no fly list, any country can randomly add Americans without any motivation to ensure that that treatment is a bit more symmetrical too.

    Sure, it will cause political friction but, as I said before, I don't see any other way to force discussions to end that nonsense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politicians know what to do

      *Standing, thunderous ovation*

    2. JLV
      Boffin

      Re: Politicians know what to do

      All true and I understand your frustration, but let's take another tack.

      Trade, or rather tourism balance.

      Sounds like USA-bound tourism is going to drop, at least somewhat.

      If US tourists are still welcome in other countries, then they'll spend money there.

      Eventually, the US hotel industry is going to complain and their trade in services balance will suffer.

      Additionally, while it may feel satisfying to do what you say, it risks setting this type of, frankly invasive, behavior as the new normal and it will difficult to de-escalate later. Plus, "mistreating" US tourists will just go further to convince them that the whole world hates them, something that plays right into El Trump's tiny lil hands.

      i.e. vote with your wallet and travel elsewhere.

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: Politicians know what to do

        I've been expecting the plummet in US bound tourism since the orange moron was elected. And early indications are that intention to travel to the US is already down around 20-25%.

        So much for creating jobs, Their idiocy will kill plenty of jobs, and plenty of people as well due to their other stupidity around healthcare.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Politicians know what to do

          I was planning on doing the same US road trip I did in 1977 this summer.

          Not any more and two things have made my decision easy

          1) The horrible $/£ exchange rate

          2) Trump and his frankly deluded ideas that Terrorists are going to bring their plans into the USA on phones or laptops.

          So my trip which could have meant that I spent around $3K in rural USA is on indefinite hold.

          I'm going to Madagascar in October instead.

          Their economy needs my tourist spend more than Trump's America.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Politicians know what to do

            1) The horrible $/£ exchange rate

            Ah, but that is an echo of the reason that UK citizens can't exactly laugh at the US for being stupid - on this side of the wet patch, Brexit was another example of where believing vague lies rather than hard and independently confirmed facts will lead to. It's not the fault of the US that the £ went into a tailspin.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Politicians know what to do

              "It's not the fault of the US that the £ went into a tailspin."

              Agreed, but it still weighs against visiting the US. If the USG were acting rationally towards tourism as a benefit to their economy it's something they'd want to counter. Instead they're doing just the opposite.

      2. Chad H.

        Re: Politicians know what to do

        KAYAK say it already dropped...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Politicians know what to do

      "most "bad guys" were already living in the US"

      Yes. They managed to vote in one of their own kind as the president no less. There were a lot of white, Christian "terrorists" here well before they got the idea to blame Muslims for so-called terrorist acts. I guess their answer to their own problems is to vote in someone with no clue how any of the big shiny buttons work, only how to craft a sneaky tax dodge and bilk the people who did any work for him. I'm not holding my breath for any "middle class tax relief." This is an administration that is easily confused, angry and lashing out in every direction, while secretly stealing from the American people and setting up gifts, even more secret organizations, and plenty of tax benefits and favorable laws for all their criminal pals. Good work, idiots! You are fans of a world class business criminal! Clearly, the bulk of American people are too stupid to see past the two party scam, and are perfectly okay with a clueless real-estate tycoon figuring out his leadership skills as he goes along. This is analogous to having Rupert Murdoch voted in as King of the UK. "Oh, spiffy! He's a good guy! He'll just figure out how to be king straight away, as 'es rich an' all that! Bob 's your uncle! We're saved!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politicians know what to do

        "Clearly, the bulk of American people are too stupid to see past the two party scam,"

        Clearly the British (hopefully not the bulk) are too stupid to see past their inability to control their OWN government and smugly insult others who are not to blame for unaccountable politicians. How's that Snooper's Charter you wanted working out? You stupid idiots voted for Brexit yourselves, you can't blame that on political hacks. And how do you propose to replace the two-party scam (that has served us quite poorly)? Please share, we would love to not face another choice like Trump vs Clinton.

        Insult the US all you like, we seem to be less bigoted than you and far more polite. The nastiest insults to be found here are usually British, but you're so smug at how enlightened you think you are. And who are all you people upvoting the smug insults? Got a clear conscience, do you?

        Flame on. You will anyway, right or wrong, justified or not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Politicians know what to do

          Insult the US all you like, we seem to be less bigoted than you and far more polite.

          Or not. QED :)

          The nastiest insults to be found here are usually British

          True, they tend to be a tad more intelligent. For instance, they understand irony.

          but you're so smug at how enlightened you think you are.

          Glad you noticed.

          And who are all you people upvoting the smug insults? Got a clear conscience, do you?

          Definitely. Because I'm neither British or American, and can thus laugh at both - and it's far, far easier to rile dumb Americans (the smart ones are fun, they give as good as they get).

    4. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Politicians know what to do

      If they need any motivation you could use a number of studies that disproved the travel ban

      Trump doesn't do evidence. The fecal bacteria in his gut do all his thinking for him.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Politicians know what to do

        >> Trump doesn't do evidence. The fecal bacteria in his gut do all his thinking for him.

        No, wrong.

        The ginger moggy on his head does that.

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Joke

    the salesman in me smells an opportunity....

    Want to keep your data out of the hands of the yanks? Remote desktop is the answer!

    (Yes I'm aware they can be hacked too. Irony alert and all that but at least you don't have to hand it over at the border and your local laws tend to frown on unauthorised access*

    *subject to your local laws natch.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the salesman in me smells an opportunity....

      Want to keep your data out of the hands of the yanks? Remote desktop is the answer

      It's a bit more complex because to make that stand you also have to prevent meta data collection which takes some extra effort, and you have to take care of a few legal things, but yes, not storing data in the US at all is a good start (there's more, but it's a good sample).

      However, there is a consequential risk for the provider if they take on US clients. I know of a number of very large companies that have set up a separate data centre for data of US origin so the abuse of US law to gain access credentials cannot be used to breach a whole system. Given the amount of legal leverage US capital, US ownership and even a US passport gives that turned out to be a good move..

  5. Long John Baldrick

    No Constitution Zone

    Duck Duck Go "No Constitution Zone".

    This is nothing new at all and US citizens are subject to it too.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Potential for hacking

    So, if these agencies get hacked, as they are prone to be, then any number of innocent border-crossing tourists could have their phone's data swiped. Certainly, the agencies will claim that their storage mechanisms are very secure, and they are "fairly sure" they have never been hacked, but who the hell knows?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Potential for hacking

      but who the hell knows?

      Putin.

  7. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    agencies will claim that their storage mechanisms are very secure

    Manning

    Snowdon

    CIA tools

    POTUS Tweets etc.

    There is a reason I don't believe the moon landings faked, or Area 51 had Aliens, or CIA killed Kennedy. No organisation can keep secrets that long, especially today if the files are digitally stored.

    1. DropBear
      Joke

      Re: agencies will claim that their storage mechanisms are very secure

      Then again, the corollary of that is that any secret can be kept indefinitely as long as you torch the evidence (and possibly some of the key people) involved. Caprica (sorry, caffeine level failure) Capricorn One was a documentary you know...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phones and Laptops for sale

    Border Agents Are Us, are having a special on electronics.

    Just about any phone or laptop you could want, maybe even yours!

    If we don't have the one you want, just let us know what you're looking for and we will likely have it in short time.

    How to contact us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My understanding is neither US or Non-US citizens have rights at the borders anymore...

    There isn't even a need for probable cause.

    If I ever went on a trip, I'll be buying a throw away phone. And, not one of those that have "frustration free" packaging.

    1. DropBear

      1) Get one with wireless charging support

      2) Epoxy the data connector

      3) Watch fireworks (I doubt they'll have something that attaches straight to the NAND handy)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Actually, that's an interesting idea. What would happen if you equipped a phone shell with a USB killer?

        All you need to do is to warn the TSA drone that plugging anything is is a really, really bad idea and do this in a slightly panicky way. They'll think you have something to hide, but if they don't ask for the exact why it's not going to be your fault if they nuke their kit..

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Joke

    Buy a special phone on Amazon?

    Curiously this may be relevant for visitors to the USA.

    prisoner's phones and amazon's bottom line

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Buy a special phone on Amazon?

      OK, that has given "being a straight up guy" two totally conflicting meanings. Bleagh.

      Beer, I need beer.

  11. adam 40
    Alert

    Take a "throwaway" spare phone

    ... and your real phone in your checked-in baggage, with the battery removed (so - not an iPhone then...). wrapped in aluminium foil if possible. Keep your real SIM card in your loose change taped onto a 2-pound coin.

    When challenged reluctantly give over the throwaway phone (it must be a working phone with a SIM).

    This will throw them off the scent.

    Soon after the twin towers incident airport security got really silly. They started x-raying laptops separate from your briefcase. So I was told to "take the laptop out of the case". When I said I had two laptops, that really confused the security guy, he said "no, take ONE laptop out", he was obviously following his scripted training!

    So.... two phones should be enough.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Take a "throwaway" spare phone

      When I said I had two laptops, that really confused the security guy, he said "no, take ONE laptop out", he was obviously following his scripted training!

      This corresponds with everything I've heard about the TSA: no independent initiative. One friend likened it to a man in a wheelchair being told to bend over and spread 'em.

      "But I'm tetraplegic."

      "BEND OVER!"

    2. creepy gecko
      FAIL

      Re: Take a "throwaway" spare phone

      Border Guard: "Do you have another cellphone?"

      Tourist: "No".

      BG: "Ah ha! Your baggage was Xrayed, and we have found another cellphone! Bubba, take this felon to the body cavity search room. We need to do a thorough job on this one".

      1. adam 40

        Re: Take a "throwaway" spare phone, and another, FAIL OVER

        Reminds me of another airport security story, I was going out of Stansted to E-pllus's labs in Germany, to do some interoperability testing, and I had seven phones in my pockets, which I emptied into the plastic box for the the Xray machine.

        One attendant saw them all after they had gone through and said to the other "is there a limit on the number of phones you can take through?" Before he could answer I looked her straight in the eye and said "don't be silly!" and started putting them back in my pockets.

        Good job she didn't take the batteries out - none of the stickers had CE marks on them - tee hee ;^)

        So - take three phones - covers off the question above nicely.

  12. RobertC

    Aren't border agencies at risk?

    If smartphones can be compromised with crafted texts and URLs shouldn't border agencies be at risk when they examine the contents of attack-oriented smartphones? Examples are honey-pot JPGs and PDFs. I doubt budget- and skills-limited border agencies are using tools unavailable in the commercial marketplace.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America

    - Where governments / corporations lawlessly slurp whatever they what.

    - Wild Wild West 2.0, where your own data is never under your control.

    - Why not travel elsewhere folks, the rest of the world is pretty amazing...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Securely cloning devices

    What happens when a wisearse hacker decides to hand over a device prepared to exploit the cloning system? The possibilities are endless.

    AC because TSA & co might find this, or I might just do it for the lulz.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have fun with the TSA goons!

    Buy a burner phone & change the default background to an image of the GoatSexGuy.

    Get an el cheapo tablet & turn the wallpaper to LemonParty, TwoGirlsOneCup, or any still from a German sheiBe video.

    Whatever it takes to cause screams for brain bleach & therapy.

    Tape a metal washer to your chest & put a fake tattoo of something disturbing next to it, so when they scan you & search you to find out what the xray item might be, they get an eyefull of the (fake tattoo) image.

    Stick a tweely noisemaker up your ass so when they go to do the cavity search, you can fart extra hard in their faces & laugh at the looks on their faces when it goes breeeeeeeeeeeee!

    Personally I'm going to do everything I can think of to fuck with them... and when I get out of solitary confinement in a few decades, I'll have thought of my next prank to pull!

    /SarcasticCoughingFit/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have fun with the TSA goons!

      The problem with all of that is that they can lock you up for a bit for laughs, interrogate you for days or select the guy with the biggest, roughest hands for your cavity search and there will be exactly zero you can do about it during the event or even afterwards. The key issue with the TSA is that there are almost zero controls on them, and zero consequences to what they get up to.

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