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US Customs block Canadian man after reading his Scruff profile (dailyxtra.com)
396 points by rublev on Feb 22, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 376 comments

Everyone proposing clever technical solutions. Burner phones and encrypted cloud data etc... you are solving the wrong problem. Instead of engineering a way for the few people who care deeply to avoid this at great effort, engineer a way for this to not be legal. Write your congressperson, donate time and money to political parties, make privacy at the border for ALL (not just citizens) a priority in every election.

> Everyone proposing clever technical solutions. Burner phones and encrypted cloud data etc... you are solving the wrong problem.

Yes, and this is why I will happily pay airlines more to transfer in another country that is not America (e.g. Canada, Mexico). It sucks because it makes travel more expensive, but US airports are not traveler friendly (they could start by having international transfer zones so you don't have to do security again) and the TSA is a bloody nightmare.

I also avoid travel to the US. There are plenty of interesting travel destinations which are not America you can visit.

For Americans impacted by this, absolutely please write your representatives and ask they tone down this madness. For the rest of the world, if you can avoid traveling to the US, do so. Vote with your wallet and pick somewhere else.

Canada also requires your password at the border. Recently one guy even faced 1 year in prison for refusing. At least in the US you don't face prison time. New Zealand asks as well.

> Canada also requires your password at the border. Recently one guy even faced 1 year in prison for refusing.

That can't be true; at least, there must be a hell of a lot more to it.

Why would Canada want to pay provide prison space for a foreign national who's committed such mundane a crime as non-cooperation, and without ill-affect on any Canadian citizens?

If you're a foreigner, Canada will just detain you and deport you.

But a Canadian citizen they will arrest and charge with obstruction of their job.

Is job obstruction illegal in Canada?

It's specifically illegal to obstruct the work of customs officers, and it's what they were charging someone with who refused to give up his phone password. That guy ended up pleading out the day before his trial.

>mundane a crime as non-cooperation, and without ill-affect on any Canadian citizens?

They already have laws that criminalise even possession of certain pornographics drawings or stories. Make no mistakes, Canada is not a free country and has no problem with imprisonment for victimless crime.

1 year was the maximum he could have been sentenced to. You're right, that the judge would probably picked a lesser sentence. In this case, he took a guilty plea deal for a $500 fine. In this case he wasn't a foreign national, but a Canadian citizen. I'm not sure if Canada will charge people who aren't citizens.


He was a Canadian.

This is not exactly true.

* Canadian' border can ask you for your local passwords.

* You can refuse - at which point, if you are Canadian/PR, you are allowed to enter the country but your device is confiscated and sent to Ottawa for further examination.

* They can NOT ask for online passwords (like your dropbox account for example). THAT SAID, if you give them your local password, and you are logged in to Dropbox, it's fair game.

Furthermore, this has not been through the Supreme Court to set precedence.

Then why was Alain Philippon arrested and charged with a crime?


because he refused to hand over the local passwords for his devices.

I am not saying what the CBSA did was legal (as the case was dropped), but not handing over local passwords is considered "obstruction of the officer's job" by the CBSA (for which he was charged).

So I'm assuming that if they did want to charge you, they could.

But you said "You can refuse". His case proves that's not true.

And his case wasn't dropped. He plead guilty.

Not true about Canada. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13665021

And the Kiwi's might ask, but only to find out if you are violating quarantine regulations.

It's undecided about Canada. There is a law that could say it's punishable by a year in prison, but the law is from thirty years ago and hasn't been tried in this situation. The CBSA says that you can be arrested for failing to divulge a password though, and for now it is their opinion that matters.

If you read the link you will see that the CBSA policy is not to attempt to arrest people for this, due to the uncertainty.


Except they actually arrested a guy and were take him to trial before he plead out at the last minute. It's undecided in Canada but the current reality is that if you refuse, expect to be charged.


And if you read the link, that is from an almost two year old bulletin and begins with "until further instruction." I don't know what the exact FOI requests were, so all you can be certain of is "their policy under the Harper government was..."

It is a meaningless tautology to say the policy is only the policy until it is changed. If you can find further information, such as more recent FOI requests, that would be useful.

There is no reason to believe that CBSA under Trudeau would have dumber policies than under Harper, I fact the opposite.

That comment does not disprove mine. The guy did face up to 1 year in prison. He took a guilty plea instead of trying his luck in trial.

As for New Zealand:


Her name is Miss Torrent! ROTFL

It probably wouldn't have survived a charter challenge... But he accepted a $500 fine that saved years of legal battles, and the CBSA doesn't get a precedent set against them.

From what I've read, I'd suggest that the law is unclear at this point. It will probably be decided by the Supreme Court within a decade. But I find the ambiguity frustrating...

Sources to back this up?

Just look at what happened to Alain Phillippon:


Back in the late 1990s, they did used to have transfer zones. I am not sure why they stopped. US airlines lose some non-trivial amount of money especially from Latin American travelers headed to Europe.

Without exit immigration, none of our airports are configured in a way that makes this workable today. There's nothing stopping someone in transit from just walking out the door.

Some airports are designed in a way to quickly facilitate this if the government ever changed its mind (IAH and LAX TBIT, I believe), but today none of our airports are set up for international sterile zones.

From the perspective of an American departing internationally, this is a bonus since you don't have to wait in line for exit formalities.

You are missing out on Hawaii and Alaska.

Can always visit NWT, or BC.

There is one flight from Latin America to east Asia. Aeromexico flies from Mexico City to Tokyo and Shanghai alternately with their 787s. (ANA is adding a NRT-MEX flight this winter also.)

But there are many, many connecting flights through DFW, Houston, LAX, and SFO. The direct flight costs upwards of $500 more, often a 60% or higher premium. That's the value of avoiding transit through the USA and the visa and CIS procedures involved. (Actually, the first $100 could be the usual price for a direct flight over a connection, but the same $500+ price increment seems to apply to connecting flights.)

Aeromexico is not known for its excellent seats, service, or food (though they're fine as airlines go). It's all about avoiding US officials.

> one flight from Latin America to east Asia

Are the countries on the continent of South America not generally considered a part of Latin America? Because there are other options from Santiago, Sao Paolo, Rio, etc. to Tokyo. Some of the options are on Air Canada, with a stop in Toronto which avoids U.S. airports but presumably not U.S. airspace so there may still be some additional scrutiny at departure.

You don't actually have to go all the way to a South American city, Panama City has Air Canada flights to Tokyo. It looks like the other carriers (Emirates, KLM, Turkish Airlines) have stops in a South American city first. The Air Canada flights aren't much more expensive but the European & Asian-based carriers are much more expensive than the flights with stops in the U.S.

Are the countries on the continent of South America not generally considered a part of Latin America?

Technically, every country in South America is considered a part of Latin America except British Guyana, Suriname, and France. Not including islands like the Malvinas or the ABC islands, of course.


I should have specified one single flight. Of course you can fly to Dubai from São Paulo and then to Seoul or to Sydney from Santiago and then on to Peking.

But direct flights are very limited.

In case anyone is confused, the Malvinas are correctly referred to as the Falkland Islands.

> France

French Guiana?

France can be divided into Metropolitan France (the main hexagon of France, along with Corsica), Départements d'outre-mer (including Martinique, Guyana, and others), and Collectivités d'outre-mer (such as Saint Martin). In terms of US geography, the rough equivalents are the continental US, Alaska and Hawaii, and unincorporated territories of the US (like Puerto Rico). If you don't understand the latter term, think of it as a fancy term for colony.

Well, sort of. Looking briefly at many maps of France (in French), the inclusion of the DOMs are relatively rare, in contrast to the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii on most US maps. Corsica is about as prevalent as Alaska and Hawaii (probably more so), while Guyana and the other DOMs are about as prevalent as Puerto Rico.

I guess I find the phrasing really odd. It seems to imply that there is an independent country named France in Latin America. It would be similarly odd to hear someone refer to the country of the United States in the Caribbean.

I also don't know that excluding French Guiana from "Latin America" is actually correct anyway. French is a romance language.


The most prestigious university in Latin America is McGill University in Montreal.

Is this your way of saying that the term "Latin America" does not include French-speaking nations? Because the French apparently created the term and it included French Guiana.

French Guiana is the departement (and region) of France that is on the South American continent. It is as much a part of France as e.g. Alaska is of the USA.

As others mentioned, this is plain wrong. I live in Uruguay and the best routes to Asia are from Santiago de Chile with LATAM, no need to go to the U.S.

If you mean direct flights to Tokyo, yes there are no Santiago to Tokyo flights.

On the one hand I agree with you, but on the other hand, not enough Americans even experience what it can be like to go through border control as a citizen.* Even for those who do care, chances are that's not going to be a priority compared to other issues.

*I've written before about my experiences having to go through border control after booking last minute trips. I've been living overseas for over 10 years now, and twice I've had to do this twice now - dealing with a glorified mall cop on a power trip when you're trying to get home to see your mother before she dies is a perfect way to make you despise everything about border control.


Also, clever technical solutions won't help when not having any data is seen as suspicious.

Like, you cannot tell them "I don't know my passowrds. They are in a password safe, and I do not have access right now". When the law says you have to hand over your passwords, "I don't know them right now" is probably not a valid excuse anyway.

what about the old My-dog-ate-my-sim-card-routine aka ditching your 2fa token ... like i really don';t know because I denied myself access:

"...Then, before you cross the border, make sure you don’t have the SIM card that allows you—or customs officials—to receive that text message, essentially denying yourself the ability to cooperate with agents even if you wanted to. Zdziarski suggests mailing yourself the SIM card, or destroying it and then recovering the accounts with backup codes"


Then you will quite possibly be denied access simply because they cannot harvest your social media profiles for profiling.

Kennywinker's comment is right that technological cleverness won't help much here. Carry no devices, and you are suspicious and/or non-cooperative (unless you are over the age of sixty). Carry devices with no data, and you are suspicious and/or non-cooperative. Carry devices with carefully prepared fake profiles and datasets and you might pass muster… or be regarded as suspicious, non-cooperative, and/or actively resisting (if the border agent judging you suspects he is seeing fake data).

I wonder how they are trained to react to people without social media accounts.

> Then you will quite possibly be denied access simply because they cannot harvest your social media profiles for profiling.

Not just because they can't. Because you specifically took steps to prevent them from doing it.

> Because you specifically took steps to prevent them from doing it.

... or I'm travelling with my local SIM to avoid roaming charges?

That only works if you've already been to the US and have a local SIM card.

Also — you left your home country SIM at home because you don't care about the roaming charges back home getting to/returning from the airport?

> you left your home country SIM at home because you don't care about the roaming charges back home getting to/returning from the airport?

Because I don't want to lose it. This is exactly how I've travelled before hearing that this 'handover your passwords' existed.

No roaming charges because it's not being used - I can live without a very functional phone between the WiFi at the airport in my home country, and home.

(Actually, right now I don't even carry the dumbphone that has my SIM it. I'm content with WiFi.)

Do you have any basis for your last point?

I legitimately don't know many of my passwords, there's no legal obligation to know them, and the law generally cant compel you to do impossible things (eg, tell them something you don't know).

They can subpoena my password safe, just like any other file on my computer, and possibly require I unlock it (this is disputed), but I don't see any reason they can demand I reproduce the contents of the safe that I don't know.

While there's no legal obligation to know them, there's no legal obligation for you to be let through the border - for non-citizens crossing USA border, the explicit legal presumption(starting from [1]) is that you're not fulfilling the conditions of the visa and you have to convince the immigration officer that you are entitled to entry. If they want to check certain information that is not available for you (no matter if the reason is good or not) and they are not convinced otherwise that you don't have any risks, then there's no "beyond reasonable doubt" like in criminal proceedings - if they are not convinced that you're not going to e.g. work in USA, then they have not only the right, but a duty to deny you entry.

[1] (b) Every alien 10/ (other than a nonimmigrant described in subparagraph (L) or (V) of section 101(a)(15), and other than a nonimmigrant described in any provision of section 101(a)(15)(H)(i) except subclause (b1) of such section) shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15) .

If you say you can't remember your password, they can't force you to remember, but they can tell you to go home.

When you're a foreigner attempting to enter the USA, they can simply deny you entry for failing to do what they want. US CBP has the authority to make arbitrary decisions not to admit foreigners, and CBP faces almost no scrutiny.

Most other countries give their border guards similar authority with respect to foreigners not entitled to enter by some treaty (e.g. EU).

First, IANAL, and I am not an expert for the situation in the US. So you're probably right.

But in the UK, you can go to jail for not disclosing your cryptographic keys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_disclosure_law#United_King...

Here is a story of a person who went to jail for not disclosing his keys: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/24/ripa_jfl/?page=1 He said he kept silent "because of principle", but I guess he might also have gone to jail if he told them "I don't remember" - Officers would not believe him anyway.

The prosecution has to show that you know the keys to convict you under that law.

Even in the UK the two situations are different. In the cases you cited, not surrendering passwords is considered to be contempt of court. At a border, you might be denied entry, which is bad, but that's it.

The law only exists to the extent that it is enforced. If customs says "give us your passwords or you're not coming through" and you don't have a lawyer handy, then "give us your passwords or you're not coming through" is now the law (until a judge overturns it and possibly charges the officer for breaking another law).

If you can call a lawyer and don't mind waiting several hours, you can challenge it. However most people don't have a lawyer and don't know what to do and are afraid of the officers.

And also, noncitizens do not have a right to contact a lawyer when they are detained at an airport.

If you call a lawyer in such a situation, they'll tell you that Customs has 100% discretion to admit or deny non-citizens and there is no such thing as "challenging" it.

And for people who are not US citizens, the solution is pretty simple too: Don't travel to the US.

This. If travel is avoidable or exchangeable for another destination, just don't go to the states.

As a EU citizen that visited Iran last year I'm no longer eligible for ESTA (visaless entry) and that - combined with these horrific border control policies - honestly made the threshold for me to visit so high, I'll probably never visit again.

> As a EU citizen that visited Iran last year I'm no longer eligible for ESTA (visaless entry) and that - combined with these horrific border control policies - honestly made the threshold for me to visit so high, I'll probably never visit again.

-My work takes me to most places where there are - or suspected to be - hydrocarbons to be found. When visiting Iran a couple of years ago, the immigration officer leafed through my passport and burst out laughing halfway through.

Obviously, I got somewhat concerned - but upon looking up and seeing my worried face, he handed me my passport back and with a chuckle suggested that if he could offer a bit of professional advice, it was that my passport read like an appplication to go to Guantanamo - and I had better get a new one before attempting to visit the US again... (Prior to Iran, I'd been to places like Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Indonesia and Uzbekistan.)

I might be forced to in the fall. There's a conference within my industry held in San Fransisco in the fall. There really is no substitute elsewhere within a reasonable timeframe. I plan to have no devices with me on the flight. I'll buy a cheap Android and a burner SIM. Before flying home I'll toss the phone.

"Give me liberty or give me death" has been subverted into "Give me security and I'll give you my freedom".

It's all up to you. But I personally chose not to go to US conferences because of the TSA.

The risk of being jailed is real: If you chuckle while they ask questions then lose your temper because he's not happy and you lack sleep; If you have a false name on Facebook (Are you lying about your identity to any US company?); If you know the wrong person; If you've watched underage porn (knowing that even with above-age porn, you don't have any of the actors' ID card to prove it); If a person claims you've harassed her at the conference... Many reasons for your life to become miserable.

The idea of risking jail and sponsoring these rules against aliens far outweighs the advantage of going to a conference, at least for me.

Surprise: This year, the main conference in my domain, is organized in Vienna (CH) instead of SF!

Yeah, the U.S. throws people in jail because women claim they were harassed at conferences all the time. The risk is real!

In USA harassment doesn't have to be proven for action to be taken. Look at the former GitHub and FoxNews CEOs, or Adria Richard's targets at PyCon, or Douglas Crockford at Nodevember: Nothing was ever reviewed by a judge, it's all just claims. 5 cases from the top of my mind. 2 other ones in personal acquaintances.

> Vienna (CH)

Er, are you referring to Vienna (AT)?

Lucky you. My favourite conferences are held in Amsterdam and London. I much prefer those to US ones of course.

Or just don't bring any electronic devices with you on the travel.

That's likely to be a red flag and used against you. Remember, as a non-US citizen, border guards don't have to prove you're guilty of anything. Any suspicion, no matter how trivial or unreasonable, and you have to be able to convincingly prove your own innocence. No electronic devices will probably simply result in them asking for the passwords to your accounts on Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.

Then all bets are off, i guess.

How am i suppose to prove i have no Facebook account? I really do not have a Facebook account. :)

If they're really interested, they'll probably just Google you. Or use something they purchased for tens of millions of dollars, that simply performs a Google search. If you're an older person, and have no online footprint, they probably wouldn't have stopped you in the first place. If you're young, and have no online footprint, that would be pretty suspicious.

The US isn't the only country that does this. Canada does it too, in fact recently a guy was facing 1 year in jail for not giving up his password. At least you don't face jail time in the US. New Zealand does it as well.

Thats the second time you've posted this. How about pointing at some evidence?

I'm posting multiple times because other people keep posting that the US laws stand out as bad compared to other countries.

If you google canada border password you find this:


Here's a story about New Zealand asking for passwords:


Buge has written this several times in the last two weeks without supporting evidence.

Don't suppose you want to give more information on your personal experience? When did they last ask for your passwords? Did they give a reason?

not parent, but this was posted elsewhere


I can see members of congress agreeing to privacy right at the border for citizens --only a very few would support the same for non-citizens, even Dems. There is no political upside to that position and it serves a very small percentage of Americans, indirectly, so, that's not going to fly.

I assume things like that get easily resolved with international treaties as other countries get retaliatory measures. Eg if Canada set up mandatory cloning of US citizen phones at the border when they try to enter, the tables would turn, so people would start complaining. This is how visa waiver programs came to be, how tax agreements get created etc.

> There is no political upside to that position

In this case you have a gay Canadian man lawfully entering the United States. I think you could find vocal American constituents who care about such people not being profiled, harassed and threatened with violence on the whims of a single person.

Maybe but you'd have to prove a gay man was more likely to be turned back than a straight woman suspected of being involved in sex work. Never the less, their being non-Americans would seriously deflate most Americans' concerns about profiling.

> you'd have to prove...

Fortunately and unfortunately this is not how rallying works. You'd have to convince the right club, event and advocacy group organizers that this would produce turnout, coverage and possibly even results. Note the size of the protests against Donald Trump's recent immigration ban.

On the other hand border agents, DHS, even under Obama pretty much had little critical oversight on how they adjudicated law and were quite immune to public opinion. [what was that Cuban, then boy who was returned to Cuba at Fidel's request despite public opinion?]

I think the political mood has changed. Note that this happened in December (edit: October) yet is finding coverage two months later.

Actually October, according to the article.

You're mostly right.

At some point these experiences may affect tourism, business, and desirable immigration.

But it's probably too distant of an effect to have that much political capital.

It's only distant in that it's near impossible to measure, so it's distant to the perception; otherwise, it's right here, right now.

If not long in the past; I for one decided around 2003 that visiting the US is too spooky a prospect for me. By boat maybe, so that if I get turned back I at least have a bit of a fun time traveling. But then again why not simply go to like a thousand other places where I pretty much know it'll be great and that I'll be treated with respect, with the added bonus of pumping money into an economy that does worthwhile things with it?

Agreed - I should have said 'distant externality'.

I have a trip to the USA coming up soon, I'm now worried that they'll seek passwords to my work devices.

Not as distant as you think. Travel organisations avoid even layovers in the US (in Europe at least) just like they would war zones and North Korea. And some (but definately not all) companies have a wiped devices policy for US bussiness trips.

When it comes to stuff like this the US is graded on a curve. The same incidents under Obama feel like friendly diplomacy might make it better. Now, maybe Europe and places like Canada should just return the favor. A bit like how travel visa's are often a reverse FU. Ever notice how many destinations dont charge tourists visum costs except when you are from the US or another country that would charge them as well?

> Now, maybe Europe and places like Canada should just return the favor. A bit like how travel visa's are often a reverse FU. Ever notice how many destinations dont charge tourists visum costs except when you are from the US or another country that would charge them as well?

I understand your point, but it's rather impractical and more importantly not very politically amenable for countries that benefit from US tourists/visitors and are less paranoid about security to reciprocate for the sake of reciprocating. This is how we end up in a downward diplomatic spiral. I'd much rather prefer (as someone who visits countries that reciprocate and those that don't) to have places like the Schengen Area hold what they see as a moral high ground.

How we'd get change then? I'd normally agree with you, but in this case that's the only thing which would work. At least it should be put on the table when negotiating visa programs with the US.

Yeah, who cares about business, tourism and desirable immigration? None of those things are worth much to the US economy I guess.

(Our family was seriously considering a touring camper holiday to the US in a year or two. Now: no way in hell.)

Unless it causes a very noticeable drop in tourism - not on anecdotal level, but on the level of millions - about 70M tourists visit US yearly, so to make noticeable change, it probably should be like 10M at least - there will be no change. Note that there are literally millions of citizens who don't get a dime from tourists, don't care too much about tourists, but worry a lot about (real or imagined) threat of terrorism. They'd kick out any politician they perceive soft on border security faster than you can say "TSA".

The difference is that just about everyone in the US actually is positively affected by tourists (tax dollars) but not affected by terrorism (very low incidence of terrorism in the US). I'm not sure where the millions of Americans who don't get a dime from tourists exist.

The US is a sufficiently large enough domestic population that it self-generates and self-fulfills most of its tourism market. I was surprised myself when I looked up how lopsided it is. Similar can probably be said of China, EU, and perhaps Africa in a couple decades.

Overseas arrivals to the US is tracked in [1].

Domestic tourism represented 96.7% of the annual market in 2013. [2]

In the context of this thread's discussion of overseas visitors avoiding the US and its knock-on effects upon the US tourism industry, if overseas visitors 100% disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn't be a rounding error, but according to these statistics it's definitely not the political-economic club it's made out to be in these discussions. For better or worse, it is up to US citizens to vote in any changes in border control service delivery standards.

For what it's worth, many of the procedures I've heard people complain about have some basis in reasoning lurking in the background. International transits (where you land in a US airport but go onwards to a different country, never once stepping foot onto non-airport soil) requiring a security re-screening is explained in some places [3]. The cost to Americans getting People's Republic of China (PRC) visas traces back to diplomatic tit-for-tat, as PRC citizens visiting the US pay similar fees. Many security industry observers admire Israel's airport security, yet discussions like this thread neglect to mention Israeli border control also demands social network and email credentials, and the US is singled out for adopting an Israeli practice, when just scant few years ago the US agencies were excoriated for being too unenlightened to adopt Israeli practices [4].

Where I see room for improvement is service delivery, and education of citizens might help, while increased focus upon anchoring the mobility of capital to mobility of labor will definitely help. I've had my share of visa issues traveling into Canada as a US citizen, but the staff were unfailingly polite while still being hard-nosed, while I hear of other US citizens getting hassled at the Canadian border. I've had minor snafus in border crossings into Mexico and the PRC as well, and I was treated politely there, too. My attitude in all of these interactions was, "Ah, sorry I made your day harder just now, what can I learn about what I missed with regards to the policy so I don't make the same mistake again, what is the rough, overall process and timeline to fix it this time around, and what is the detailed next action item (who/where/what/how)?" This has never failed to elicit the officer politely, sometimes gladly, assisting me, so maybe this helps others. YMMV, of course.

[1] http://travel.trade.gov/research/monthly/arrivals/index.asp

[2] http://www.eturbonews.com/53328/research-domestic-tourism-si...

[3] https://www.quora.com/Airports-Why-do-you-have-to-go-through...

[4] https://www.quora.com/Is-it-justifiable-for-the-Ben-Gurion-a...

All those things are. The question is, how much do these things affect the above? This has been going on since W Bush on; the Obama and to the present, and as of yet, the impact would seem surmountable, i.e. negated by the majority of people who travel anyway and conduct business anyway.

Your life was not online as much that is changing. Facebook didn't even exist under Bush

True, but I suspect we will see other countries do the same, not as retaliation, but more because they'll want catch up to the US in terms of border security ...and it will become a normal thing except in third world counties too inept or poor or corrupt to care to implement this where the dissidents will be free from hassle, for a while.

The world is going through it isolationist phase so yes it is likely other countries will do the same. Though in the future I am seeing a possibility where governments ask for your social media handles and all that data is trawled using an ai which assess your risk profile according to the needs of the government asking the questions. Instead of all your private data getting into the hands of the government or outside third party it accessed and processed by an AI. Personally I would not mind such an AI scanning my profile data as long as the parameters of the questions are already set and the data is not seen by any humans.

This will have a broad chilling effect. You can't deviate from the norm anymore. I would be worried very much if my fate lies in the hands of an AI where there is neither transparency nor recourse.

You dont have a recourse with immigration officers who can be a racist homophone or have any other hangups to reject your entry to a country. But if its AI it is more likely to look at what is relevant such as are you going to overstay or have nefarious reasons to enter. Nothing to do with your race sexual orientation or religion.

There is already no recourse in the immigration system.

I had a Facebook account before Bush won his second election, in 2004.

How is it distant? I have friends and colleagues who are already thinking about skipping going to he US on business trips for this reason.

On a slightly different note. Can this be used to send people home even if they are not bringing a device? I mean, wouldn't it be suspicious to not bring a computer or phone? And if border police are as arbitrary as people say, why not send people away for not having devices that could be unlocked. It would be suspicious couldn't it?

AI/ML conferences are talking about either avoiding the US, potentially with some livestream for people stuck in the US.

This year's schedule is probably set already, but 2018 may be different.

Completely off topic, but which conferences are that? Any recommendations? I'm looking to go into that field.

There's a lot of conferences that overlap.

The biggest ML conferences are ICML and NIPS. ICLR is a new one focused on deep learning that is also very good, but smaller. AAAI seems to be the big general AI conference, but I haven't really seen much talk about it. KDD seems semi-popular, but not a top-tier conference.

There are also application-specific conferences like ACL & EMNLP for language & CVPR for computer vision.

I'm not an academic, but I went to ICML last year since it was in NYC, and it was definitely worth it.

This wikipedia page has a list of some others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_computer_science_confe...

I can think of plenty of economic reasons to not make other people hate being at your airports (and thus hate visiting your country).

There are many places in the US where a significant part of the economy comes from tourism.

There's also 300M+ people in US. Which means virtually none of these places relies only on international tourism. There should be a huge change in tourism for them to notice enough to actually lobby for political change. And such huge changes, even if they would happen - which is not a given, for each person who have read a horror story about a Canadian turned away at the border there are thousands of people who never heard about it - it would take a long time.

Yes, but we're not Costa Rica. It's not grievous. And business interests aren't supposed to be the measuring stick dictating policy, some argue.

They're attempting to solve the problem that they, as individuals, can solve.

I have no realistic chance of convincing enough of my fellow Americans that the privacy of foreign nationals who wish to enter this country is more important than maintaining the false sense of security we get by violating it to put any pressure on lawmakers or enforcers of policy and get things changed.

What you can do, today, is employ technical measures to prevent the agents at the border from snooping into your private business.

I thought tech people liked hard problems ;)

Please, by all means use whatever technical measures you want at the border. My criticism was of hn commenters armchair quarterbacking, as thought the ability to bypass these checks (at great effort) makes it ok that you have no expectation of privacy.

Tech people like hard tech problems. We notoriously hate hard people problems.

I have mixed feelings on the matter. At an international border, non-citizens shouldn't have an expectation of privacy.

At the same time, this man's private sexual preferences shouldn't be used to evaluate his fitness to enter the country.

Does violating the privacy of travellers routinely actually make you safer?

It most likely does not but what you're overlooking is that it makes some people "feel" safer.

I'm not US citizen. I have no one to contact and no one cares about me. And I will never travel to USA.

It's a beautiful country though. Most people are very friendly and they love foreign accents :)

It is a shame this; as a white Brit, I found that America is already great on the individual level. It's just the institutional and political side that's a mess, as well as the dark side that one doesn't see as a tourist. Unless you run into an obstreperous border guard.

That's funny, that's the same thing that Americans say about Iran.

Indeed. I've been to several countries and in most of them it's the same thing: Nice people, bad politics.

Makes you wonder why the people keep having bad politicians. Maybe it's time they taught themselves that system a little bit better.

Unless they're the "wrong" accents in which case you will face discrimination for it in many places. That being said, the better parts are at or near the top of the global spectrum in terms of discrimination from my experience.

It's not just the US. Canada and New Zealand do it as well.

I just emailed my U.S. Senators, U.S. Congresswoman, New York State Assemblywoman and Senator as well as New York City Councilman. You can find your representatives here [1]. It's a simple email saying this is an issue you care about. Pretend it's a Hacker News comment...

[1] http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight...

According to a number of interviews I've heard, e-mails are the least effective means of lobbying congressional representatives.

in-person > phone > lettermail > e-mail

I disagree. Maybe people can influence policy in US, but this will still happen to journalists in China, women in Saudi Arabia, suspected drug users in the Philippines, and tomorrow's persecuted minority in tomorrow's undemocratic regime.

Technical self-defense measures are imperfect partial workarounds but the best we have to offer for people in these situations.

Further, why a political solution won't work is right there: this is not an issue most people face or will care about.

Even if you manage to stop customs agents from demanding access, some other branch of government will do it, even if it's outright illegal for them to do so. Technical solutions are the only ones that will make a dent.

What are you talking about the entire US political system is corrupt by design. Politicians need to beg large corporations for money meaning the corporations own their ass and your fooling yourself if you think your meagre contribution is going to get you heard.

Realistically speaking the US was never a democracy but over the year it's turned more and more into a corporatocracy where the only way to get heard is if you are rich or a corporation.

If the US government was code I would have scrapped it a long time a go and re-written it but then again don't expect anything to change for the better where it matters since all the interest groups are really good a protecting themselves and as log as they have the money anybody else has no say on the matter.

the technical aspect of this issue is a solvable problem.

the social and political aspects of it are not. there's no political traction against this stuff. the border patrol types are too stupid to understand simple and innocent explanations, and treating them as equals is a surefire way to incur their wrath.

the way to make privacy at the border work for everyone is for everyone to conspire to keep the border patrol in the dark. throw them a (fake) bone or a (true at first evidence check) lie, and keep moving on.

> the social and political aspects of it are not.

No, they're at least somewhat solveable. It's true that in the long term, those with power will use it to seek more power. But that would seem to imply that the government cannot be peacefully replaced every few years through voting, or that checks and balances cannot keep authoritarianism in check, and that's at least worked for a while. We just need to re-strengthen those limits and develop new rules to account for the new technology.

Temporary cultural issues and a lack of understanding are surmountable problems. But you're correct that this social and political change is a lot more difficult than encryption software.

Agreed. Technical solutions are a temporary stop gap for those who need to cross the border while the law stands. Or a form of protest, but not a long term solution.

I think it's very naive to think you can solve this through politics. No political party will solve this issue for you. A minority care, an even smaller minority understand.

Thinking you can change a rigged, corrupt system? You've already lost. This is 100% a case where the state needs to be thwarted through technical means.

im sorry but i honestly don't understand how any intelligent person could believe writing a letter compares to a technical solution. do you have any evidence that would support your advice for people facing such significant risks?

Since when has going through proper govt channels ever worked?

A lot of the biggest successes of US civil rights movements have used proper government channels.

For example, women's suffrage was a constitutional amendment.

Or the Civil Rights Act. It didn't by any means fix all the problems in the US, but it represented real progress.

And then there are the thousands and thousands of lawsuits filed by groups like the ACLU.

I think doing both is a good idea. Fight it on both fronts.

After many unpleasant dealings with US Customs, I avoid flying to or through the US completely even if it costs me more.

The last time I flew from Canada to Singapore through the US, the US Customs officer - on Canadian soil - was hostile, asked me numerous questions about my travel, itinerary, who I was intending to meet, and my personal finances.

When I questioned if all this was necessary as I'm not even traveling to the US, he became agitated and threatened "You know I could stop your trip right here? I might not be convinced you'll actually transfer on your next flight or leave the US."

After scowling at his screen for a while, he finally scoffed, slammed my passport on the counter and said "Go." I guess he felt he had shown his power enough.

It was extremely stressful and humiliating, and I vowed never to subject myself to it again. FWIW, I'm a caucasian, middle-class Canadian IT nerd. I can only imagine what others who meet their "profile" go through.

This is part of the problem, not the questions but the attitude. I can understand them asking questions, they have a short time to figure out if the traveler might be "up to no good". That is no reason to ask questions in way that attacks a person. Ask all the questions you want just don't be terrorizing jerk about it.

Now one instance can be chalked up to a bad apple but over and over again I have heard stories like this and experienced on multiple occasions.

Canadian customs officers may ask questions but they are generally not in a abusive tone.

> Canadian customs officers may ask questions but they are generally not in a abusive tone.

Brit here, anecdata. I once entered Canada for business reasons and (long story short) my employer hadn't given me the correct visa paperwork. The Canadian border guys let me leave the airport and gave me 24 hours to come back with the correct paperwork (and threatened arrest if I didn't return). It was stressful but the guards were professional and relatively courteous. The guy I spoke to the next day basically said "we get this all the time, we know it's your company and not you".

Isn't the point of the giant world wide surveillance apparatus run by the NSA, etc. meant to let them know this sort of thing before they even buy a ticket for a plane trip?

I know I'm being purposefully naive in saying this, but why pay for something that's not working?

You can't really find out in advance if someone intends to overstay their visa by surveillance. Surveillance is not magic, and mass surveillance has a problem of collecting huge mass of junk, and no agency, even NSA, would have resources to sift through this junk enough to find trivial matters like intent to overstay visa, even if that information actually was there. Surveillance may be useful to detect highly anomalous behavior, or to detect connections between people (e.g. is Mr. X connected to known terrorist Mr. Z?) but I don't see how it can be useful in trivial matters like immigration enforcement.

> but why pay for something that's not working?

Because it's The American Way! We spend so much money on programs that are proven not to work, it's embarrassing.

Apparently they do it intentionally to throw people off, supposedly making it easier to spot if they're hiding something. It doesn't really hold water with me, but that's the rationalization I've heard fwiw.

I was on a school trip flying out of IAD and the TSA guy standing near security looks at me and asks me if I'm feeling ok because I look nervous. I've flown probably over a dozen times in my life at that point and everything up until that question had been a very routine day at the airport so I wouldn't have had any reason to be so. I just looked at him and said no, and he replies back that he was just checking. I think he had just recently sat through a powerpoint on detecting suspicious people by confronting them. I'm guessing the thinking is if they ask someone if they are nervous, the less experienced smugglers and terrorists are going to react even more nervously to that kind of question. But you are at an airport. There are plenty of people flying for the first time and those that are just always apprehensive about flying. Little questions like that can surely help when trying to determine the mood or emotional state of someone (like the Israelis do) but it was a dumb question. Expecting your average, uneducated TSA officer to be able to pull off those sly interrogation techniques is asking a bit much from them.

Probably part of the "behavior detection" program that costs $200M per year and has exactly zero effectiveness: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/tsa-sp...

I went through Canadian Border Patrol and I had to deal with possibly the most aggressive power hungry person I ever have. I am a US citizen and was just going there with my boyfriend for a weekend trip.

One time I was going to Canada for a Hackathon, and I had to explain for a bus full of people what that means. Their only reply was "you do that for fun?"

Canadian customs officers may ask questions but they are generally not in a abusive tone.

Going to disagree with this statement. I've had 3 instances where Canadian border police were very aggressive and basically accused me of breaking the law without any evidence.

The US? 1 instance.

As a New Zealander, it amazes me that the US and Canada do not have closer relations with regards to customs and so forth. I understand that both countries are large, but this situation seems a little ludicrous.

I recently travelled to Australia on business - which, I suppose, is the larger neighbour in the same way the US is to Canada.

Through immigration and customs at both airports, I was never obliged to actually interact with a real person: only check-in machines, face scanners, and a quick walk past sniffer dogs.

It used to be much more relaxed. After 9/11 things changed and the US started paying more attention to border crossings.

I remember those days. You didn't need a passport to cross and half the time you got waved through because you knew the border guard by name.

This has more to do with Australia than the Aus/NZ relationship. They also have this process with other "low risk" citizenships such as that of the US.

>asked me numerous questions about my travel, itinerary, who I was intending to meet, and my personal finances.

Well to be fair when I was visiting Canada from EU I got asked exactly same questions from Canadian customs.

Exactly. When you travel from EU to Canada or US there is no significant difference. Measery on both borders.

I think the main difference (speaking from the biased perspective of a Canadian) is that US border guards seem to want to get angry. Whilst Canadian guards have a "what we're doing is necessary, but we want to be nice" attitude.

Unfortunately Canada's awful security policy comes because we need to be "up to US standards", or else we risk huge barriers being put in the middle of our trade relationship due to US paranoia. And economically, Canada is totally dependent on trade with the US.

As an American who has made three land crossings in to Canada, I can say that Canadian Border Agents treat Americans in the same way that American Border Agents treat Canadians.

My first crossing in to Canada was riding with my girlfriend and her parents, all Canadian citizens. It was maybe 10 PM, crossing from Maine to New Brunswick. The Canadian agent was very friendly to my three companions with Canadian passports, but immediately become agitated when she saw my US passport. It struck me as quite odd how rude she was to me given how she had no suspicion of the other three people in the car with me. I wasn't driving the car, I was in the back seat listening to music on an MP3 player.

I've decided it isn't so much that Canadians feel the need to be "up to US standards," as much as it is they feel the need to treat US citizens with the same contempt that the US treats Canadian citizens.

The experience crossing into Canada seems to vary quite a lot.

The two times I crossed (~5 and 15 years ago) the Canadian border agents were polite and brief. I guess that first one was in the days where US citizens didn't need a passport to travel to Canada.

Yeah. I think I'm pretty reasonable when it comes to complying with laws of other countries. Whatever they want from me, I'm happy to help. I just want to be treated with respect.

US and Canadian border guards will search your stuff without telling you why, seem disappointed not finding anything, curtly dismiss you leaving you to repack. And it's like they're disappointed when it turns out you've committed no offense.

Were you a young male travelling by yourself?

I believe that automatically flags them to see if you are working in the US illegally. I always have this problem when I travel for work to SF. I was secondary screened when I said I was paid via PayPal and he didn't know what PayPal was. The girl in secondary screening had to google it to make sure I wasn't getting paid by American company but in fact was paid for a contract.

Over the last few years I've gone from wanting to visit the US and planning it as one of the next few holidays I'd like to do, to wanting to visit the US but holding off until 'later', to now simply not wanting to visit due to these sort of policies and actions at the border.

It's a shame; US citizens are generally lovely people, the US natural environment is beautiful and, hell, the US makes killer craft beers that I'd love to drink my way through. However, there's enough other destinations around the world to keep me busy so that I don't have to possibly subject myself to this sort of treatment, and therefore I'll visit them instead.

Educated won't visit the USA anymore. Only the people with desperate need for a job will "visit" the USA.

I know plenty of Europeans who are still enchanted enough by "Friends", "Sex and the City", "Breaking Bad", etc who are dying to visit the US. These stories don't have mainstream impact yet.

not sure about being enchanted by some tv shows, but yeah some people would still want to visit US, in land mass this big there is always something interesting to see (culture really ain't the draw for the US). these days I just keep explaining to them all the humiliation they would be exposed and hence they change plans accordingly. so will we. world is a beautiful place, too big to cover it properly in a lifetime.

go where it's exotic (this ain't US), where you are actually welcomed (again not US), experience traditional culture (what? seeing how shamefully native indians were/are treated? no thank you) and so on. if you are into big cities, european and asian places are way more interesting and intense anyway.

Go to NZ. Natural wonder of the world and the craft beer is killer. You'll thank me.

They will be asking for passwords in NZ too before too long by the sound of it.


Plus there is what happened to Sam Blackman


Being on the east coast of AU, I'm well aware and love visiting it. :) You're absolutely right, more people should visit NZ!

Also, Garage Project do phenomenal work. Love their stuff.

With a little effort I'm sure his righteous indignation will have no difficulty finding a reason not to visit NZ, e.g.:


That kind of thinking is dangerous, though, in all forms: equating people with their governments is the beginning of the end, in all directions.

> to now simply not wanting to visit due to these sort of policies and actions at the border.

I think that's actually the best way to achieve change in this case. Will suck for the tourism industry though.

Only 19% of the US population voted for Trump, and only a portion of those actually wanted people to be harassed at airports. There are a lot bad things happening right now, but for the most part, the US hasn't changed fundamentally in the last month, and it's still full of great people and amazing places to visit.

This existed before Trump. That's why I said 'the last few years'. It seems like the US government has had a steady drift towards police state for some time. This is reflected in many facets of the government's approach to authority, for exmaple the militarisation of police forces, border controls, TSA, etc. etc.

Fair point and I agree about that steady drift which I think really got going after 9/11.

Don't let the shitbag xenophobe minority convince you to not visit our country. Stick it to 'em by bringing your foreign ass here and enjoying the hell out of the place.

Not possible if I'm stopped at the border because of my bedroom activities.

In the US right now visiting, am Canadian. Was a pain, was held up over an hour at the border (via land). Apparently they don't believe there's any reason for a Canadian to visit the US as a tourist, we only want to work illegally (they're partially right, only came to visit family, our national parks are nicer).

Also, based on my family members' experiences of working in the US, it's easier to work illegally than to immigrate legally. And hard to be a tourist apparently. You guys have your priorities all backwards - should be easy to visit, hard to work illegally, and somewhere in the middle to immigrate legally.

That's how most countries are. For the most part the US is the exception for industrialized countries in that it's easy to work illegally because the gov does not enforce verification very hard and does not penalize employers often. I know countries I've been to, even if you could avoid interacting with authorities, there's no way to get other gov services while not having proper visas --ie, education, housing assistance, etc.

US has very strong political opposition to denying services to illegal immigrants in many states. Given how many there are, in is understandable - if you have 10 million population, you can not just deny them all healthcare or access to housing. That'd create tons of problems.

It could be done if tightening the rules is combined with finding solution for having so many illegal immigrants, one way or another (in various combinations). But political stances in US are such that making comprehensive solution is very hard, the trust between parties almost nonexistent, the desire to cooperate is very low, and the entrenched positions are incompatible and only cover part of the possible solution, which can not work without other parts.

I think you and parent are talking about separate things. They say, "housing assistance," and you say, "access to housing."

Housing assistance is a government service. Access to housing would mean controlling the private housing market, I guess.

Those are very different ideas in terms of feasibility, morality, economics, etc.

Well, yes and no. There are several factors. First of all, government can both help (by providing money/actual housing) and impede (e.g. by requiring ID checks when renting out). Help may include giving money (or pseudo-money, such as vouchers) to participate in the private market.

Second, many illegal immigrant are poor, or comparatively poor (e.g. housing in SF Bay Area is crazily expensive as you know, but in other parts of California is not super-cheap either usually) - and thus the government has a choice - either provide at least some assistance, or deal with tons of homeless people and all the problems that arise from that. California has pretty mild climate, which can be good because people won't freeze to death, etc. in most places most of the time, but that also means they can actually live on the street in most places most of the time, and the rest of the population usually gets uncomfortable when this happens. So they ask the government to solve this somehow.

Do you have stats showing a correlation between homelessness and illegal immigrant status?

In my experience, illegal immigrants were frightened of encounters with police/authorities and were much less likely to be homeless or live in government-subsidized housing than others of a similar stratum. That said, my experience is mostly with migrant workers (agricultural and service industry); so these were people with jobs, albeit low-paying jobs. Those who couldn't work would live with their traveling companions until they moved to next location or eventually return home if they weren't making money.

I'm not arguing there's no correlation. It just feels like a stretch to imply the government is providing low-income housing so the streets aren't flooded with homeless illegal immigrants. But maybe that's true in CA; I really don't know. My experience and knowledge is all rooted in the southeast (AL, MS, VA).

Housing assistance often is, in these economic classes, synonymous with access to the housing market. You can't suddenly have a few million more homeless people because they didn't wait in the proper lines and fill out the proper paperwork when they crossed the border.

The problem is it's very easy to make entering the country hard for legal immigrants and tourists - you just make tons of strict rules, tell border control to enforce them vigorously and voila! But it's much harder to crack down on illegal immigration, since by definition they won't follow laws and rules.

You'll need to spend a lot of money and effort on finding them and getting them out, on enforcing eligibility checks at workplaces, etc. And face very strong political opposition - since it's one thing just not to let the person in and very different thing to uproot a person who already has been in for a while, got some local contacts, established themselves, etc.

Now add people that oppose virtually any immigration enforcement for political reasons, and you've got the situation US is now in - there are about 10M illegal immigrants, about 1M have final deportation orders (which mean the state ordered them to leave now, all process, appeals, etc. have been exhausted) and ICE has in custody about 12K (yes, 12K out of 1M), where are the rest - nobody knows and nobody will know.

You seem to have conveniently forgotten that there are two sides to undocumented employment and left the employer totally unmentioned. If we were serious about "solving the problem", it would be easy: the next time we bust somebody running a place with $2/hr undocumented workers we PUT HIM THE FUCK IN JAIL and seize the business as proceeds from illegal acts. Instead, we hand out puny fines and play along with "sure, I was paying them $2/hr but I had no idea about their status!" game while employers can use the threat of calling ICE to keep workers silent.

Yes, there's strong political opposition to immigration enforcement, but there's also strong opposition to illegal work enforcement.


If anyone were serious about this problem, E-verify would be in force everywhere and the working population that supports 12M undocumented immigrants would be out of work tomorrow, and out of the country the next day.

The article makes very little sense. Trump's orders were about a) limiting immigrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, etc. and b) removal of criminal illegal aliens (of which for vast majority of them ICE has no idea where they are so it's as useful as ordering the sun to raise of the west). But field workers are predominantly Mexican or Latin American, and vast majority of them do not commit any crimes except possibly illegal entry or visa overstay. So what's the connection with Trump orders?

The article's premise is that most people thought Trump was bluffing/lying about barring Muslims, as well as about increasing deportation of undocumented workers. These executive orders proved Trump was serious about Muslims, and the NY Times simply found people who then realized that he probably is serious about undocumented workers as well.

Basically all the fears in this article were realized with the DHS announcements yesterday: https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-immigrant-crackdown-worri...

US has denied my 70 year old parents visa to visit me because they think they intend to work or stay in USA when my own visa expires in few months!

Argh, you couldn't invent this kafkaesque stuff:

"When he went through secondary inspection at Vancouver airport, US Customs officers didn’t even need to ask for his passwords — they were saved in their own system."

"They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. "


I know that US/Canada privacy laws might not give people protection in this situations, but what about universal human rights? UN Declaration of Human Rights and other binding international agreements recognize the right to privacy.

And, of course, the United States is based on the concept of natural rights. Hence the Bill of Rights saying, "Congress shall may no law".

Americans 4th Amendment right wasn't created by the 4th Amendment, but merely acknowledged by it. All human beings have an inherent right to privacy -- to suggest otherwise as a US citizen is self-contradictory.

The problem is no human beings except US citizens have the inherent right to enter US. So you can easily refuse to surrender your privacy - and they can as easily to deny you entry to the US. Unless, of course, you are a citizen - then they'd make it suck as much as they legally and semi-legally can but eventually they'd have to let you in.

The fact that they saved his passwords is pretty ugly. They're free to demand them 100% of the time, so it raises questions of whether they're saving them for some other purpose.

And more simply, it means you have to trust border patrol's password management as well as your own. (Or change them all immediately.)

Also makes the border control's system a pretty attractive target for hackers.

Exactly. I think a database of identities tied to accounts with passwords would be at least as tempting as the OPM records (though to different people), which is reason enough that it shouldn't exist.

Since when does the US give a damn thing about the UN declaration?

They signed it.

Signatory, Ratified, Implemented. These and other words making up the jargon of diplomacy mean very different things.

For example:

UNCLOS - "Although the United States helped shape the Convention and its subsequent revisions, and though it signed the 1994 Agreement on Implementation, it has not signed the Convention as it objected to Part XI of the Convention." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_parties_to_the_United_...

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: "The United States government played an active role in the drafting of the Convention and signed it on 16 February 1995, but has not ratified it" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_th...

Basel Convention: "Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basel_Convention

Thank you for pointing these things out.

Additionally, the US wages illegal wars all the time - against the UN charta where only aggression for self defence or with a UN mandate is allowed.

I'm Canadian running a company in California, and every time I cross the border, I get pulled into the office for an hour.

There was one time last year where I got detained for 8 because they didn't believe that a college dropout could run a company, even calling me "full of shit" at one point. They had my computer and went through my email one by one asking me to cite specific dates of employment at 3am in the morning.

They ultimately rejected me on the basis that I got one of the dates wrong. Can't say I've ever had a good experience with any US customs official.

what does this even accomplish? Are there quotas for rejecting people?

The only reasonable explanation apart from quotas I can come up with is that they want to harass people.

When you give stupid people just slight power they will always abuse it to the max. That's what happened.

Why run a company in California?

Not sure about the OPs case, but usually it is when you care about investors' money more than the company/product.

Apropos that you're saying that on a social media platform run by a Venture Capital company out of Mountain View but your statement is a pretty damn cynical view of it. California may the epicenter of tech related VC but it's also the startup and tech company capital for plenty of other reasons besides VC such as the amazing local culture, awesome weather, friendly legal environment (e.g. CA's strong anti-SLAPP laws), experienced local hiring pool, state & municipal tax benefits, etc.

We were in the online-video space, which made sense to be based in LA.

Our investor was also based in California, which made sense to leverage his network there to raise subsequent rounds of funding.

Can't you use NEXUS to avoid all contact with them?

If you have been rejected recently you will be pulled in for secondary screening even if your on NEXUS.

Also, its difficult to get a NEXUS card if you have been rejected recently, but they wont take yours away for being turned back unless you did something against the rules of the program like fraudulently applied for a visa.

Beyond the obvious privacy issue, there is a more general worrying pattern here. The fact we give mediocre, frustrated, under-waged people, some power, with minimum control. This is not a condescending remark, and I truly think the root of all these incidents (and this also include other abuse of power) lies here. Think of sadistic guards in prison, think of police officers coldly killing black teens. These all are patterns where mediocre and frustrated people have finally a chance to get a revenge on their meaningless life by using the only relevant element they have: their power.

I'd say that goes all the way to the top, and "get a revenge on their meaningless life by using the only relevant element they have: their power" holds true right to the zenith of current power structures. Which is not to disagree, or to take away from the fact that in the end, there's rarely abusers who aren't also victims. Just beating on them, whether poor goons or rich goons, doesn't help. Nor does just pleading. Respectfully establishing boundaries does, but that requires cooperation of all the environment.

Do not visit the US under any circumstances, especially now. Until our tourism companies like Disney feel the pain and start losing massive amounts of money nothing will change. You can talk to your Senators until you are blue in the face and it won't change squat. But some rich company pissed off at losing money who will not give the Senator money any more will be listened to. Money moves politicians, regular people are unlikely to.

Can we acknowledge that this specific event happened last October, before Trump was elected? I am 100% not a Trump supporter, but the article is definitely trying to have people infer that it has to do with Trump's travel ban when it does not.

Correct -- there have also been a lot of disingenuous stories about record numbers of overseas Americans renouncing citizenship.. yet that trend began due to FATCA which was passed by Democrats in 2010. The renunciations started to spike once the impact of that law was felt by overseas Americans and so-called 'accidental' Americans (automatic Americans at birth but no connection to the US.)

There are a lot of these stories that are suddenly making the mainstream press -- the stories themselves are true, but the "why write this now" aspect is clearly an attempt to imply that these issues are Trump inspired when they have been anything but.

And example of this are all of the deportion stories -- the Obama admin had fairly aggressive deportation enforcement, but they didn't inspire protests because Obama isn't Trump.

Even the framing of the stories is suspect: "Muslim Ban" for example -- yet 85% of the world's Muslims were unaffected and not a single religion was named in the text of the executive order. Don't misunderstand -- I don't support national origin bans either, but the media framing is definitely designed not to inform people -- but to provoke.

The fact that this story is appearing now when the incident happened 5 months ago is extremely suspect -- it fits a crafted narrative that Trump is anti-gay or whatever he's supposedly 'anti' this week.

It isn't a national origin ban if it only covers Muslim-majority countries with a priority process for religious minorities:

> "to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality."

I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's a ban on Muslims, but it strategically bans (arbitrary groups of) Muslims. Also, if we're going to talk about portrayals, it's worth reminding readers that the countries on the list (Trump signed it, not Obama) have not historically been sources of terrorists.

The countries on the list date from 2016. No President "signed it", it was established and extended by DHS and State Dept as part of Visa controls.

The EO extended those controls from "no waiver, manual review" to "no access"

I mean that Trump signed the order knowing the countries on the list, regardless of when and by whom the list was created.

Trump actually doesn't appear at all in this article.

No it isn't?

> US Customs officers didn’t even need to ask for his passwords — they were saved in their own system

This is also horrifying. So there's a government database of plaintext passwords and a massive body of people have legitimate access?

OTOH, not changing all your passwords after having to divulge them under duress is pretty careless, too.

True, but it'd be especially painful if you use a password manager. Presumably they're going to demand the master password, so you're left changing everything.

If you were dealing with a reasonable system, a compromise might be to unlock the accounts for them (without them seeing the password) and allow them to review the contents in your presence. That way you know exactly what they've seen, and that they're not holding onto anything, but they should still be able to do any necessary screening. Unfortunately the system appears to be weighted rather more toward maximum intimidation than reasonableness.

>True, but it'd be especially painful if you use a password manager. Presumably they're going to demand the master password, so you're left changing everything.

So you have to change everything + the master password, that is 1 more than you would have to change, had you not used it. Without a password manager, you could just give them the passwords they wanted, if you remember 20+ different random passwords. Otherwise you are reusing your passwords and so have to change most of them anyway.

>If you were dealing with a reasonable system

That this could seriously be described as "reasonable" shows just how much things went wrong.

I use a password manager and certainly wouldn't stop because of this, but no, without one you only have to change the passwords you give them. That would be a handful of passwords to SM accounts and such. If I give them my master password I have to change ALL my passwords. I have several hundred passwords stored.

And yes, I agree that having to show border guards your facebook account isn't ideal. It's a hell of a lot more reasonable than just giving them all your passwords and having them run rampant through your digital life without your even knowing what they've done or seen though.

The problem isn't the changing part. The problem is that if there are any shared passwords or patterns you have, they are now stored forever in their database.

One can't only act after going through, one has to change all their passwords to throwaway passwords before going through the border.

Wait what? Why are you sharing passwords?

That is poor password security right there, even before giving your master key to some rando.

Can we please stop pretending to be surprised and shocked that this is a thing people in general do? It wasn't even funny anymore 10 years ago and nowadays is one of the most tired comments possible.

If wiping your browser history is "suspicious", then surely so would be changing your password and not divulging the changed one, so how is that any comfort?

I'm sure you'd be made to divulge the new passwords, but at least the passwords stored in their database -- that could be accessed by god-knows-who -- wouldn't be usable for the weeks or months between cross-border trips.

Are you really that shocked that a government has databases like this?

Storing plaintext, readable by random border patrol staffers? Yeah.

I'm not surprised they have access to a lot of accounts, but that's different from trusting that everyone working the front line at border patrol will use that database securely and ethically.

As a engineer, I was quite curious to visit the US and maybe even consider it as a destination for working, but that was before I knew all the things that are going on there like problems with visas, racism (police shooting people without any repercussions), internet privacy, gun control and, yes, the border control.

Currently, I have absolutely no intention of even flying through the US. The only reason I could imagine doing it is if I were to have a onsite interview at some companies headquarters; or if I through some miracle get tickets for I/O or WWDC. That would be about it. And if I get a ticket, I would now have to think about a plan how I could keep my data safe while still taking my phone/laptop with me. It's a shame really.

(Unrelated side story: I am a frequent traveller and invested good money into a nice robust trunk. I usually have the PIN lock on it with the normal TSA key thing for them to open it. I took it to a dozen countries and never had any problems, but at the first time through the US it got directly broken open (despite TSA lock), my stuff left in a messy state and I got the usual paper notice about a TSA inspection. Now I can't close the trunk correctly anymore and will probably have to buy a new one. Booh.)

>racism (police shooting people without any repercussions)

US police have always been shooting/killing citizens (mainly political out groups) without repercussions. The difference now is that documentation of such acts is easily accessible for large portions of the population and the information is extraordinarily easy to be decimated.

I'd love to visit the United States, but this is just creepy. I don't even give my family passwords. Not worth visiting on my own dime if I'll just be turned back for refusing to comply.

I've recently relocated to Washington state and am close to the Canadian border. I thought about driving a few hours to check out the sights in BC and satisfy a many years long Tim Horton's drought this weekend (I'm originally from New England where we had Tim's for a brief shining moment in time), but decided against it after reading a plethora of instances online where Canadian authorities have done the same to people at the border.

I figure if I don't get the runaround on the way in, I'll get it on the way back. Sad, but not worth the trouble.

If you're interested, I'd be glad to ship you tins of Tim Hortons' coffee. I don't think I could ship donuts, but I could fill your coffee pots...my email is in my profile!!

I've found the Canadian guards meaner, and I'm a Canadian citizen.

On either side, the worst part is, I don't have anything to hide. I just don't want anyone digging through my personal messages or photos etc just because they can. I'm not a criminal, nor do I have any criminal history, I pay my taxes and all that other good stuff you check off a list when you go on a rant like this. Someday maybe I'll have a reason to fly in. For the interim, I remain maple dip-less.

I get detained and harassed at every single border crossing into the US, and I am a citizen—simply for having on several occasions many years ago asserted my 5th amendment rights at the border.

Non-US people traveling with me have been denied entry after being sent to secondary for refusing to unlock their devices (the only reason they were sent to secondary and the unlock demand made was because they were traveling with me, a known fifth-amendment-user).

US CBP are total scumbags. I've had lower level CBP insult the country in which I live, unbidden, in response to my plain, unadorned factual responses to questioning about where I live and what I do there, in what appeared to be self-reassurance about the USA's number one status. Both me and a female partner have had our genitals groped as punitive response to our refusals to unlock our phones.

The sooner we can drive this issue to a head and get all these pigs out on the street looking for new jobs, the better.

>The sooner we can drive this issue to a head and get all these pigs out on the street looking for new jobs, the better.

hear hear.

I've always wanted to visit the US. I grew up in India and UAE and viewed US as the ultimate place to be. It was my lifelong dream to get a job and settle in the US (and have an American way of life).

The more time goes by, the more the US is moving away from that pedestal I had put it on.(privacy is getting eroded, cops are killing people, the govt. does not trust it's own citizens etc. - and no it's got nothing to do with Trump, this was happening before Trump too - doubt if he'll make it better).

Even now, US still has a lot of ideals I consider dear, but man, they are making it hard for me to even visit the country (wanted to have an all-over-US driving trip when I get my car - but I doubt if that's happening considering recent news)

Don't let the doomsayers dissuade you. Life is still very good here. Violent crime is near record lows. The air is much cleaner in cities than it used to be. You can find amazing salaries. We are making progress on social issues with same-sex marriage being a legal right.

I have the ability to move anywhere in the world and, all things considered, I'm staying in the US. It is not without it's problems, as you mention, privacy and a militarized police force are high on the list, but also keep in mind the positives. I think they still outweigh the negatives by a lot.

There needs to be some reasonable way to get your digital life into an E2E encrypted cloud, wipe your devices, fly into the police state you call home, and get setup again when you land. You can promise at the border that your head doesn't contain anything either.

I get very worried about traveling with an object as alien and shiny as a Yubikey. I don't know how I'd explain it to an aneurism in a Kevlar vest without triggering them with words like "encryption".

> wipe your devices

But then you risk:

> They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’

That and the bit about the bill that would increase CBP's power to detain and strip search Canadians entering the US were the two most troubling things in the article, IMO.

Why Canadians?

In some Canadian airports, there's "pre-clearance", where you go through American customs while still on Canadian soil. Right now, they can't hold you, because you're in Canada -- so if they aren't going to let you in, you can just leave, back into Canada.

There was a recent (Canadian) bill that gives US customs the ability to hold and search in pre-clearance, in Canada.

If the alternative is just to go back to Canada, why would they want to hold you anyway?

Let's say during the search they find a conspiracy to commit a crime in the US. They want to hold you, extradite you to the US, and throw you in jail.

Wait. In that case, wouldn't the crime (conspiracy) have taken place in Canada? There should be no extradition, then.

It's the pre-screen areas are inside Canadian airports, on Canadian lands. Anything the us border cops can do there, they do so with the permission of the Canadian government.

Which really, should be whatever they need to do. The twist being at any point you should say "No, I'm staying in Canada" and they should say okay bye.

I think that happened in the article.

If there is nothing more suspicious than a cleared device, the next step in the privacy arms race is to automate the generation of an innocuous but prolific history for cleared devices and find a way to link that history with decoy accounts, preferably accounts that have existed for a while and that have been created solely for that purpose.

Scripts could be written to populate a system with an inoffensive browser history and file usage that reflects light-moderate casual use, the only issue is making any attempts at spoofing appear congruent, believable and not anachronistic with whatever dummy accounts you present.

It's extreme and absurd, yes, but preferable to have them snooping in on your actual life. I suspect crossing the border in the future will be on the same level of 'invasive' as a personal audit.

Quite. Once you have such an E2E encrypted cloud, the next step is to simply not bring your device over the border, but rather buy/rent one in the country you arrived in and load your stuff on that one. The only problem is finding hardware you can sort of trust.

My phone almost always costs around a thousand dollars, roughly the amount the guy persecuted by the CBP was complaining about losing on flights.

It's also instrumental for getting me from the airport I land at to my hotel, as well as remembering the name and address of the hotel I need to travel to from the airport.

I would do what you suggest but a) the Apple store isn't always open when I land, and b) I have no way of summoning a non-taxi to get there (or to where I am sleeping).

And besides, it still wouldn't help. They could hand you a device and tell you to log into your social media accounts. If you say you don't have the passwords because of whatever technical measures you cooked up to make them temporarily inaccessible, you're back to, "Don't do that next time. You're not entering today."

What if you don't have social media accounts?

Reports like this tend to trigger a Google search for my own name and correspondence with all sites that show up, "please delete all my shit".

Finally deleted my Facebook account last week, too.

Maybe we need a religion that forbids using social media, or more broadly, your real identity online?

> Maybe we need a religion that forbids using social media, or more broadly, your real identity online?

Good idea. You'll get bonus social points for being a persecuted religious minority when you're turned away and it's publicized.

I'd be interested in their response to this technical measure: they're written down in a book on my desk at home.

They would probably tell younto bring them next time.

They have to let US citizens in, provided you've proven citizenship.

When you start considering renting a device to evade surveillance, you've come full circle. Are you going to pry that thing open for bugs? Not if your deposit depends on it

Encrypt the disk passwords to your lawyer's PGP key. Give them your lawyer's business card if they ask about it.

Or don't bring your devices with you.

Then they can just refuse entry, like they did to him after he tried to enter after deleting the apps.

> You can promise at the border that your head doesn't contain anything either.

That would look like a clumsy "I'm just like you" attempt at building personal rapport.

It's funny, but I don't think it does much good to think of somebody as dumb. If you or I were actually them, we would be doing the same job. Everyone is getting swept up and used by processes that are too big for them to see.

I can't speak for you the way you think you can speak for me, but I wouldn't be one of them.

Sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound as if I was speaking for you. What I meant was, if you were actually them, you would be doing the same things they are. Maybe this seems tautological, but I think it's an insight that helps one to be compassionate.

If my current mind were to be downloaded somehow into the other guy's body, would I be a border patrol agent? No! But that weird hybrid person never existed and never will. If I had been born as he did, and had the same brain, and gone through the same experiences (in other words, if I were actually him), I would be doing exactly the same things.

This realization that people are doing the best they can (usually very unskillfully) can help us be compassionate toward them.

Encrypt a blob of your stuff (using a key derived only from a memorizable password), stick it anywhere, then download after passing through the border.

I don't think they have grounds to seize wiped/empty devices from US citizens, but who knows.

Sadly, yubikeys don't work everywhere and can't store more than a couple traditional-style passwords last I checked.

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