You could be arrested for refusing to give up the passwords to your electronic devices when crossing the Canada/U.S. border, warn civil liberties advocates.

You could be arrested for refusing to give up the passwords to your electronic devices when crossing the Canada/U.S. border, warn civil liberties advocates.
Photo Credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Border guards can ask for your passwords

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is warning people to think hard before deciding to take cell phones or other electronic devices across the border between Canada and the United States. Even if they have no grounds for suspicion, border guards can ask for them and might arrest a person who refuses to give them the passwords.

Arrest could violate constitutional rights

The charge would be obstruction, but in Canada, such a case would probably violate the Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees of privacy, says Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. There was such a case before the courts but it was not pursued.

“You can understand, not many people need the grief, not many people have the resources, not many people want to take on a court challenge of this kind, which is in part why we have so little case law in relation to the border where…many people’s rights are very much at issue and are unfortunately quite gray.”

Listen
Are you ready to give up your password?
Are you ready to give up your password? © Matt Sayles/AP Photo/file

No clear policy in Canada

In the United States, there is a document which clearly sets out the policy on border guards’ examination of electronic devices. But in Canada, there is not and the information has been pieced together through requests under the Access to Information Law. The Canadian Border Services Agency does believe it has the right to ask for passwords.

Vonn would like the Canadian government to produce a clear policy for the public and have it reviewed by Canada’s privacy commissioner to ensure it conforms with the constitution.

Micheal Vonn would like there to be a clear policy on people’s rights at the border and independent oversight to handle public complaints.
Micheal Vonn would like there to be a clear policy on people’s rights at the border and independent oversight to handle public complaints. © Paul Joseph

No independent oversight of border agency

Another problem, she says, is that there is no independent oversight of the Canadian Border Services Agency so if someone has a complaint they can only make it to that same agency. Vonn says the agency has police powers so there should be independent oversight of it as there is of police forces across Canada.

Do you really need to take it?

In the meantime, Vonn says people should ask themselves whether they really need their devices before they get to the border. For example, she suggests people who may have presentations to make to consider sending them. People can also wipe some data from their devices. This is especially important for individuals who carry other people’s private information like doctors or lawyers.

Vonn says people who do decide to take their devices should back up their data in case the border agents seize and hold their devises for further examination.

If you refuse to give up your password to a U.S. border agent, you might not be arrested, but you could be banned from entering the country.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in International, Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*

One comment on “Border guards can ask for your passwords
  1. Brad Reddekopp says:

    When you upgrade your device, keep the old one. Reset it to factory settings, make it plain with no account information leading to any of the accounts on your primary device. Use that one when you travel.