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Canadian Charged for Not Unlocking Smartphone at Canadian Border (cbc.ca)
262 points by jpdaigle on Mar 5, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 213 comments

We should frame this story with what the actual end result of 'unlocking your phone' is when discussing it. The government routinely claims that it is no different than asking a traveler to open a physical briefcase. It is very different.

If you're treating the phone as a 'good' as indicated in the quotes on this story, you can inspect my phone as a good. You can look at the phone. You can xray it. You can open up the back cover to ensure it's a real battery inside and not something more sinister. All that would be fine and fall within what the law was intended for.

What the government is actually asking you to do is unlock your digital key to your entire digital identity for them to do with as they wish. Your phone has direct access to all your email accounts, all your personal and work files within the cloud (Dropbox, Box, iCloud, Google Drive, etc), your entire address book, your chat history, all your personal photos, your private PGP you use to sign communications to prove they came from you, etc, etc.

Asking to inspect your phone is fine. Asking to have complete access to your entire digital life, history, and identity is not. If I'm asked for the former, go ahead and inspect it, I put it through the scanner on every flight. If I'm asked for the latter, the answer will be no.

Right. No one needs to import data via physical presence, so customs simply doesn't need to inspect the data on devices. If someone wanted to bring contraband in, they simply can download it over the Internet, no customs searches needed.

This is vastly different than physical goods inside boxes or briefcases, which all physically pass through the border in an inspectable manner.

I predict they will claim to be hunting for child pornography and similar contraband. Despite the argument being silly, as pointed out by yourself.


Just harassment of a guy crossing the border. Any truly malicious person could just wipe and restore the phone/computer before and after the crossing either from the internet or locally so it is a waste of everyone's time and invasion of privacy.

As an aside I am not surprised this happened in Canada. I lived in Canada for a few years and then returned to the UK. It's not obvious to people who have not lived in both places, if you only visit you would not see this but Canada carefully cultivates an image of itself abroad and there is a stark difference in how authoritarian Canada is compared to the UK. I still know people who live there and the way the authorities at all levels treat even their own Canadian citizens would not be tolerated in the UK. Often times you cannot talk about this with Canadians as they will defend the way things are done and say the infringements on freedom are for a good reason. The citizenry is generally happily compliant and only outsiders who are used to more freedom notice it.

I think the compliance reasons are why they also put up with government restrictions on business in telecoms, air industry and even the dairy industry, look up the Canadian cheese smuggling arrests made a couple of years ago :-)

Canadians also rejected the UK style totalitarian blanket surveillance and internet filters so not sure what 'freedoms' they are missing out on compared to the UK. All those same kinds of gov interference and regulations in airspace and dairy exist in the UK too, and every other country.

Border guards demanding your phone will likely happen in every country soon if not already. They take mine at US border and France.

Telecoms in Canada are just as corrupt as the US where they established monopolies long ago and now squat on spectrums to prevent any new competition. Huawei almost bought their way in to Canada then the Americans panicked and the deal was lost http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/politics/canada-at-risk-from-chines...

Of course regulations exist in every country but it's the extent to which they limit competition resulting in poor service and high prices that affects Canada particularly badly. For example, tv/internet services Rogers/Bell provide are abysmal compared to the likes of Sky and they charge many times more too. Same with cellular plans. Really though we're getting side tracked, I do not think border guards demanding your phone will become commonplace in every country like you say because of both privacy concerns and because of the fact that people with malicious intent are not going to be caught out. This is not like a car where drugs may be hidden inside the trunk, you can completely wipe the phone and just get data back as soon as you exit the airport.

Some countries (China/Israel) they disappear with the phone likely to load it full of nation state spyware I would never trust that device again even after flashing a new application OS.

The show Border Security has a case like this on pretty much every episode. It shows the officer going through a persons text messages and they usually find that either the person sells drugs, or that they intend to work illegally in the country. I've always wondered if the persons phone wasn't locked, or if they willingly gave up their passcode.

This is why I don't carry a smart phone. I carry a shit, call and SMS only phone.

Even with the worst phone you can buy from most carriers, these would still apply: "your entire address book, your chat history, all your personal photos"

Just factory reset your phone before going through, and restore it after you've completed your TSA adventure. Though, do NOT brag about your tactic to them or they will likely try to force you to restore it on the spot.

I've showed my Nokia 5110 with prepaid couple of times when checked at border. Usually the first question they come up with is: "Is this really the primary phone you're using." Just smile and say yes. I don't have any other phones with me. That's all I need to contact someone to pick me up. If you need new identity & SIM card, you can just pick one using cash from SIM card vending machine. Someone said that getting anonymous phone is hard, lol.

And then you will be fined for your non-compliance with the law, if you don't like the law go ahead and leave.

With that attitude, how do you expect to ever improve anything?

downvotes for not playing nice

Customs officials forcing you to unlock your phone is not just an invasion of privacy - it's a pointless invasion of privacy. Customs agents don't even know where to start in finding data that a user wants hidden.

Even if allowed access to personal devices, data is slippery enough that it could be stored in almost anything. Here's yet another example of taking away rights in a way that does nothing to deter actual crime. Hopefully the court understands technology enough to make the right call, but I'm not counting on it.

I had this experience. My laptop wasn't locked, but I was asked to let someone look through it. That took about 20 minutes, which caused me to miss my coincidence.

Since I now had time to waste, I asked to see the customs lady's supervisor, and then berated the person who inspected my laptop for not having any idea how to do this sort of search properly. So, I ended up sitting both the customs lady and her supervisor there for another hour or so while I taught them how to use undelete and some basic free forensic tools.

I then handed them a bill for an hour of my time and left to wait for the next plane.

I like to think it took them a while to process just what the hell had happened. Mindless securistas like that need to be humiliated at every turn, or they'll never stop. Society - the segment of society with which they interact - must make it clear that their job is not wanted, not needed, and not welcome.

This was in Montreal in 2009, if anyone cares.

Hilarious! Did you ever receive payment for services rendered?

No. I am fairly sure that it all went in one ear and out the other...

(I do this stuff a little too often, maybe twice a year. This probably makes me an asshole, but it gets the testosterone out in a nonviolent manner, so it's the lesser of two evils ,really).

uh, thanks? I'd prefer they remain ignorant

Why didn't you refuse the search?

I thought it'd be faster to accept it. I was trying to catch my next flight.

Counter-trolling only happened when it was obvious that I had already missed it.

Hilarious and gutsy! I admire your commitment to anti half-assery, even if it could've turned on you. I'm assuming the bill remains unpaid?

I suspect that the people they're trying to catch by doing these searches (pedophiles, illegal workers) are generally too stupid or lazy to bother hiding their data. At least, that seems to be the case when watching Border Security. They do actually catch a lot of people this way.

So you would catch the lazy criminals, and maybe even victims of such act, where things were done on their devices without their knowledge... I've read recently about new kind of software, that encrypts your data without your knowledge and then asks you for money to unlock it - wondering how this would play in courts...

It sounds like an encryption suite that had had an included "crytpolocker" gui element would be a hilarious method plausible deniability, and at least make this asinine habit harder. Just randomly generate the BT address so some strangers get paid if the border agents want to try to unlock something they have confiscated.

Now that was a political maneuver. The article about the guy in Canada didn't say what the reason was for searching him.

>"Officers are trained in examination, investigative and questioning techniques. To divulge our approach may render our techniques ineffective. Officers are trained to look for indicators of deception and use a risk management approach in determining which goods may warrant a closer look"

This statement makes it look like they noticed something about him that prompted the search.

That description seems awfully close to saying an officer can selectively interfere with someone's life just because the officer didn't like the look of him.

I think we all know how that one turns out.

Sure, it gets us the "Terry stop", a police tactic which the Supreme Court currently says is legal.

In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), Terry was represented by Louis Stokes, who went on to become a luminary in local and national politics. Here's what Stokes said about the case, from http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/nypd-stop-and-frisk-2012... :

> Stokes, chairman of the legal-­redress committee of the Cleveland NAACP, believed the arrest was dubious.

> Representing Terry in court, Stokes pressed [arresting officer Martin] McFadden on the stand, where he got him to admit that the men weren’t doing anything other than peering into store windows, and that he’d never busted anyone before for seeming to case a business. “What attracted you to them?” Stokes asked.

> “Well, to tell the truth,” McFadden answered, “I didn’t like them.”

It just a way for them to justify searching anyone. He looked suspicious so the officer searched him. I'm certain they could say it about anyone.

Right... Maybe the guy has dark skin?

I wasn't clear.

David Miranda was carrying material which he must have known a government would show interest in.

They (unacceptable) stop and search found the data, and it was mostly unencrypted.

"Under the Customs Act, customs officers are allowed to inspect things that you have, that you're bringing into the country,"

- Here's my phone, sir. - I see it has a password, give me the password. - Mhhh... OK. It is 1234. - Oh, I see you have Dropbox app installed. I need the Dropbox password. - Mhhh... OK. It is 5678. - Oh I see you have a GPG encrypted file in Dropbox. I will need to decrypt that. Give me the password. - Mhhh... I can't... It's encrypted with a public key and I don't have the private key on me. - Ok, boys! Take this guy! He is clearly obstructing.

Could you not backup your device, wipe it at the border, and then when they request the password simply say "There is no data on the device. Its as it comes from the factory" and hand it to them?

You could then perform an over the air recovery once safely away from the border.

The whole point is that sort of thing shouldn't be necessary. The government shouldn't have the authority to demand you hand over the contents of your phone/laptop without reasonable suspicion in the first place.

I'm not saying it should be necessary. It SHOULDN'T be. I shouldn't have to pay $100 every 5 years for Global Entry/PreCheck even though I'm already not a risk on the air transport network, but I do because the time savings is ridiculous.

What I'm saying is: Can X be done until sanity has been restored to Y? It appears that, yes, it can.

I do this (reset and reformat to factory spec) with my phone and my laptop every time I cross a border. On the other side I download a TrueCrypt file which has everything (and only what) I need whilst abroad. I started doing this in 2010, after my phone got taken into another room for a half hour at Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv in 2010.

I've been wondering about how to do this.

The problem I'm having is that I have a ton of widgets and custom settings on my phone (Android). If I were to wipe my phone before crossing a border, it would take quite a while to get it set up the way I like on the other side.

I am just using stock android though. I wonder if there is a way to achieve what I want with a rooted phone.

You can completely backup most apps and your sdcard with adb on an unrooted phone [1]. The tricky ones are apps like Google Authenticator, which disable adb backups. You have to be patient and not use your phone for a while. It takes a long time. If you root, a nandroid backup is the way to go.

[1] http://forum.xda-developers.com/galaxy-nexus/general/guide-p...

Do you use Android or iOS? I'd love to find a way to image and restore an Android phone, both for better backups and things like this.

To answer my own question, it looks like rooting and then using a custom recovery like ClockWorkMod or TWRP is the way to go for a true whole-system image.

Yes, you can do that, and many business people now do exactly that when flying in/out of the US knowing that any data they carry across the US border is fair game.

China too - a friend’s dad works in chip manufacture & flies regularly from the UK to China - he leaves his personal phone at home and gets issued a new phone by his company every time he goes, which is wiped when he returns.

I know a few people who've worked at (different) places which have a rule that says "any hardware you've taken to China is never allowed on the corporate network again". They get "burner" laptops and phones before leaving, and dispose of them when they come home (usually by giving them to family/friends or selling them on eBay).

I have a close friend who worked at a place that had that policy for China and France, along with no VPN access from those countries.

And now consider the bitter irony of your "China too".

I am not sure I understand the irony of comparing China to an authoritarian state.


The bitter irony is, when talking about authoritarian states, as Americans, we didn't used to reflexively include our own country.

I think manicdee was pouring on added irony there.

If you have an Android device and you automatically upload pictures, doing a factory reset before crossing a border will remove all your data. Then all you need is an empty/dummy Google account, in case you are asked to log-in.

There is a reason people call it a theater..

Just make sure you wipe it before you cross. If you try to do it after they've asked you for the password I'm sure they'd consider that obstruction too.

Is "Sorry, I forgot my password" an option here?

That depends, do you like waterboarding?

There is no reason anyone should search a phone, because anyone smuggling "illegal data" can just transfer it directly over the internet undetected.

This is horrible and ridiculous.

They can read through the person's text messages to look for evidence of illegal activities. This happened to one of my friends while trying to enter the US, and she was given a 10 year ban from entering the US because of things written in her text messages. They essentially accused her of trying to engage in immigration fraud because she had texted with one of her friends some jokes about getting married for a green card.

I'm guessing they knew the text messages existed before they requested to see the phone.

No, they did not know it existed. I'm sure they suspected something (no idea why), but they just pulled over her entire family's car, and did a blanket search. She was on H1B, so she lost her job and had to fly back to Asia with nothing except the clothes she packed for a weekend road trip to Canada.

They're not going to tell that they already had them (with everyone elses' communications gathered) and then reviewed them.

More validation of my decision not to move to the US after I got my H-1B.

Why? I've been stopped entering the US for similar reasons, and they searched everything. Read every piece of paper, they even switched on my camera and flicked through the pictures asking me questions about what they found, they didn't search my phone but only because they didn't run across it during the search (my backpack has very many pockets, and they missed a few).

I have no doubt at all that they routinely search through people's phones, laptops, tablets, and similar. And if you watch those Passport Patrol style shows where they film in immigration/customs, you can see it is common on there too.

You need to make it commonplace so people become tolerant to it. It doesn't mean there isn't specific targeting done with private data prior to.

Maybe, but since you have no specific basis or proof that that was the case in the above example, we can just move forward assuming it was part of a common pattern of searches conducted by US immigration and customs on a daily basis.

Not really. Both options should be kept on the table, in our minds.

That seems like a pretty wild guess.

I can only assume you don't know what the NSA has been up to?

I don't doubt some people in the government have the capability to read people's text messages, but what you're suggesting is way past that.

In the scenario you seem to be proposing, some random border agents are not only privy to top-secret NSA projects, but also have access to the data collected by said top-secret projects, and not only that, but they know everybody who's going to drive across the border on a given day, and not only that, but they pre-screen all of those people's data to see who's planning to marry for a green card so that they can manually screen the people's devices and then pretend it was random search.

Basically, these people are not the NSA, so assuming that they have the capabilities of the NSA seems a bit far-fetched.

It doesn't mean anything of the sort. They just need a tip-off at the border. They don't need access to everything or even need to know how or why.

They don't even need to know that it's a tip-off: a computer could just spit out "selected for random phone search" and maybe "suspected immigration fraud" when that person reaches border control. The border agent needn't know how or why the selection was made, nor have access to any top-secret data. Just follow instructions.

With automated screening using access to a database of everybody's communications, I'm sure you could easily predict more than 80% of the people who cross country borders within 24-hours. For flights, that would be close to 100% accurate. With satnav, you'd probably catch a good portion of the rest who drive across.

And who do you reckon is doing all of this expensive, technically demanding and legally hazardous work just to catch people getting married for green cards? The NSA does not give a crap about that.

If every government agency were dipping into the NSA's cookie jar of secrets so liberally, we'd most likely have known about all these not-so-secret programs years before Snowden ever worked there.

It's not impossible, but it's sufficiently implausible that you'd be crazy to bet on it.

I understood (arguably too much) The Cube as an allegory for the intelligence machine we have built/are building. That was a really hard realization.


Unlocking my phone for border officials in 2013 when I arrived in Canada cost me about $300. They turned on cellular data when it was left in airplane mode so they could search through my emails.

I fly internationally on business and the Canadian border officials are the worst I've run across.

This brings up an interesting point. Next time I fly with my smartphone, I am going to remove my SIM card so that something like this doesn't happen.

Whether its right or wrong, I imagine it's a way to catch low hanging fruit.

Or on a USB or other device that's easily hidden.

You could, but if you watch some episodes of "border security" you'll see that they catch people doing illegal stuff all the time by searching their phones. Usually it's illegally working (which obviously wouldn't apply in this case). However they also are looking for child porn, which may be been why they wanted to search this guy's phone.

That's a bullshit excuse border guards give to search electronic storage.

Why is it a "bullshit excuse" if they do actually manage to catch many people by searching phones?

It's a bullshit excuse because "protecting the children" are items #1 and #2 on the list of "flimsy justifications for surveillance overreach", right next to "preventing terrorism" at #3.

I'm serious. Any time you hear those terms and the discussion is not about speed limits in a school zone, red flags should be going up in your mind.

It's not about how many people they catch - even if they had a 100% success rate at nabbing every abuser that crossed the border, it's about civil liberties.

I was simply pointing out the reason for the searches. As it stands, the law currently lets them do these searches, and I was explaining the reasoning behind these searches (which should be pretty obvious to anyone who has watched those TV shows).

As for why they want to search for pedophiles at airports: the reason is presumably because there is a serious problem of child sex tourism in certain countries (Thailand for example).

You could use the same argument about guns or drugs -- why search people who they suspect are carrying guns or drugs? The reasoning is presumably that stopping these at the border prevents them from coming into the country.

To be honest I don't have a problem with being searched at airports. IMO the small inconvenience is outweighed by the benefit of putting the occasional pedophile in jail, preventing diseases from fruit/meat entering our country, and criminals bringing machine guns into the country, etc. I guess from the downvotes and comments that a lot of HN posters have a different opinion.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. -- Franklin, Benjamin

By the way, the real cap'n crunch would be ashamed of the attitude you have expressed, as I'm sure you know.

I think you should perhaps research what that quote actually means. Hint: it means pretty much the opposite of what you think it means.

The fact of the matter is they don't. What they want to do is go fishing through your papers and they cynically use this catch all excuse when challenged.

In Canada it isn't legal to arbitrarily search people even at the border. Reasonable cause is necessary:


There is both plenty of incentive and no consequences for conducting unlawful searches.

>The fact of the matter is they don't

Do you have any references for that?

From what I can see on programmes like Border Security, they do catch a lot of people this way, and they do always have reasonable grounds for the search.

Also, how does that law allow random searches at airports (which are presumably legal)? Is there another law which permits those?

You know those shows are 100% PR right? Do you really think they would be invited back if they showed unedited footage? I would bet money that the agencies involved get the final say on whether an episode airs or not.

I can't stand those shows, I have to change the channel, they literally make me angry. Thinking that there are people out there who actually fall for it makes it worse.

> I can't stand those shows, I have to change the channel, they literally make me angry. Thinking that there are people out there who actually fall for it makes it worse.

If HN sold gold stars I'd buy you one.

Sadly, the propaganda is effective and enough people agree with cpncrunch: Being treated without dignity, like a prisoner, is totally worth it if maybe it catches a few evil boogeymen.

Shows like that are pure PR. Border guards aren't going to break the rules while they're on camera. And even if they did, the shows producers aren't likely to include it.

Random searches are not legal in Canada. Border guards take advantage of the fact that nobody wants to look guilty by refusing to be searched. They exploit the public's ignorance of the law and use intimidation.

Actually, it is legal in Canada for border officers to inspect any goods being carried across the border -- not even suspicion of illegal activity is needed. See section 99(1)a of the customs act.

I don't think this would allow them to search your phone. However that may be permitted if they have reasonable suspicion.

There's a very important difference between inspecting the goods and searching your person and papers. (These details matter. Note your comment about random searches at airports. Did you mean borders, or airports?) Try reading the entire Act. I did, and found some interesting stuff in there. Then go watch "Border Security".

When a Canadian enters Canada it's acceptable for the government to say, "Show me all of your apples." It can even say, "Give me the bill of sale for those apples." That's inspecting goods.

It's not acceptable for the government to say, "Show me all of your text messages, emails, pictures, and personal journals." That's a warrantless search.

It is illegal, and it should remain illegal regardless of what good deeds a government bureaucrat might be able to do with that information.

If the government wants to conduct a search like that, it needs to accuse you of a specific crime and set out the reasons why it believes getting those items will prove it. Any just government must assign different people who act at arms length from each other to make the request and to decide if the request is justified. (eg. Police, Prosecutor, and Judge) This is necessary in order to prevent any individual human agent acting with the power of the government from abusing that power.

Just governments do not search everyone because some of them might be guilty. Just governments don't say, "Show me your apples. OK, that's fine. Now give me your passwords because you might be a pedophile and I need to make sure I can't find any evidence that you are." Just governments don't say, "Show me your journals, emails, and pictures, then and then we'll see if we can charge you with a crime."

I wouldn't give up living under a just and fair government even if that meant we could catch all of the criminals... which of course we couldn't.

Actually, according to the Act they can do those searches (without a warrant) if they have reasonable suspicion. These aren't random searches -- they do them if they have a suspicion that the person is doing something illegal after talking to them.

I agree with your other points.

There's nothing wrong with acting on reasonable suspicion. The problem is customs has a policy of exceeding their lawful authority in questioning travellers. I don't have any obligation to answer questions such as, "What do you do for work?" or "Do you have any friends in Paris?". Yet these questions are routinely asked, and refusing to answer them will result in punishment.

That's what happened in this case. Customs demanded irrelevant information in order to go fishing, the returning Canadian declined, as is his right to do, and is being punished for it.

Take a look at the Nexus program. It asks travelers to waive their rights voluntary in exchange for being permitted to avoid being coerced into waiving them at each crossing. If more people were aware of the rules and pushed back there would be no need for such programs.

Imagine how many more criminals we could catch if we could search their homes at will! Or listen in to every single conversation. Why stop there, perhaps make citizens check-in every 15 minutes with a quick video?

This is one of the main points of having civil liberties.

Because it doesn't protect anyone.

As a European I have to say, that I associate these sort of things with totalitarian regimes and it is just unimaginable for me why the American society tolerates this while fighting for democracy elsewhere.

It's not that we tolerate it, it's that our voting populace is largely single issue voters and don't really care about whether the next president wants to remove the Patriot Act. They care about social issues like reproductive rights. Added to mostly binary voting (two party system) means you only have two real choices that are polar opposites on the hot button social issues.

I think in the end it comes down to the way the parties are funded. With state financed parties and regulations to cut costs of campaigns, smaller parties would have better chances to gain traction. The problem is that nobody currently in charge has the slightest interest to do as he would cut of his own monopoly to the financing. Maybe you could start by sneaking in some clever cost-cutting tricks for the campaigns.

It's sad how much advertising plays into elections. It comes down to living in a society where most people are pretty dumb and make voting decisions based on a 15 second commercial and biased journalism.

just fyi, this was in Canada. just as bad :(

Canada is in America, I knew that this would come, could not resist the bait ;-) Arguably the last part applies less to Canada.

We are currently facing legislation (Bill C-51) that, when passed, will do quite a number on our democratic freedoms. :(

What part of the world are you from? Here in Canada, if you were to say "Canada is in America", it would sound as strange as saying "Spain is in France". To Canadians, America only ever refers to The United States of America.

I know that you use the word that way. Nevertheless it is correct to say, that Canada is in America and I used the fact to address both countries, because as far as I know, on US borders similar things can happen. Unfortunately my genius plan did not take into account that Europe is currently asleep and Americans (and Canadians !) are down-voting the posts now.

"Europe is currently asleep"

Wrote a comment recently which incidentally and obliquely implied in passing that people are in control of their own body weight, a proposition which I believe within some limited contexts.

It went up to +15 overnight when the Europeans were awake. Then right back down to +5 when the Americans woke up. Got some kind of nasty comments back, too. I'm surprised that it makes so much difference.

I know Central Americans and Canadians who prefer I call USA "the states" since they live in America.

Them's fighting words, Eurasian!

Oh, yeah, it sort of is, isn't it.

Sorry. Here, have a maple doughnut.

Is Canada fighting for Democracy elsewhere?

Canada skipped out on the 2003 Iraq war and subsequent occupation, but it was part of the Afghan mission all along, in the NATO mission in Libya, and many others. Now my take on these is that they are fights for the neoliberal order, not democracy, but I thought I'd answer in the spirit of the question.

That fills a decidedly large gap in my knowledge. Thank you.


I would argue that articles like these indicate, that the people of Europe indeed have more power as citizens than people of other countries. I do not see how Europe would benefit from being a superpower again.

It would be pointless anyway because Europe is too important to US power to be trusted with their own defense.

If you have nothing to hide, then invasive surveillance doesn't hurt you.

If the alternative to invasive surveillance is terrorists flying planes into our buildings and killing thousands of innocent people, then a little extra hassle at the airport is a small price to pay.

That's how most people think. Finding the incorrect implicit assumptions made by these arguments is left as an exercise to the reader.

"If you have nothing to hide, then invasive surveillance doesn't hurt you."

Easily countered with "So what's your email account and password?".

(I love watching the logical contortions that come out next "Well I didn't mean _I've_ got nothing to hide! Or I didn't mean I don't have the right to hide it from _you_ Or or or... Think of the _chiiiiiildren!!! You're probably a terrorist!")

It's different when we do it.

Yeah, with torture etc., because of course we are only doing it to the bad guys to save lives and so on.

But this affects your own people even those people, that have enough money to fly out of your massive country and not some messy and suspective underclass.

Again, it's different when we do it. Especially when we think we have nothing to hide.

We heard cries about how bad things were on the other side of the Iron Curtain, while we led a witch-hunt on our own people.

When the commies spied on themselves people for The Greater Good, it was evil; but when we spy on ourselves for Freedom and Advertising, it is different.

Honestly, if you have enough money to not be part of some messy and suspective underclass, why would you give a shit? If you actually cared, you have enough money to subvert a dragnet or the consequences that might arise from it.

You can live in the Manhattan/SF superclass bubble or any other bubble around the world. You'll be spied on just as much here as anywhere. At home, you probably know someone in intelligence who can give you some good insider info, though.

I would say that "tolerating" this is exactly the same flavor as "fighting for democracy": both terms are misleading at best.

> while fighting for democracy elsewhere.

They don't fight for democracy elsewhere. They fight for dominion and economic subjugation of those people.

They fight for the right to buy up all their mining and oil rights, set up Walmarts and McDonalds, subject them to Hollywood movies and American music, and convince them they need to buy iPhones and iPads for every person in their household...

If you had bothered to read the article you would know this was Canadian Border Patrol.

Canada is located on America (North America, to be more specific). I'm not trying to start the old argument about the use of the word America here, but under the dictionary definition of the word Canadian society is an American society.

I was indeed referring to both Canada (because of this article) and the US (because of previously read articles) and therefore used your continents name in anticipation of comments like this.

The continent is North America. If you want North and South America, Americas is fine, but must be plural. You're being simultaneously pedantic and wrong.

Alright, lets do this. Wiki says you are pedantic and wrong while I am only pedantic.

> The Americas, or America, also known as the New World, are the combined continental landmasses of North America and South America …


I love how strong you all feel about this. Just relax.

I am from Deutschland, but most people on the world call it either by a too general term Germania - and nobody in Denmark, Austria or the Netherlands is offended - or the too specific term Allemannia - and nobody in Switzerland is offended. In English you even use your own names for German cities (Cologne, Munich etc.) and the people there do not give a crap.

Wikipedia is a great resource in general, but it fails in places. For example, none of the 3 sources cited for that usage of America agree with that. One points out that America (singular) can mean any of N America, S America, or the USA (but not both N and S America). The second doesn't refer to America singular at all, instead clarifying usage of "American". The third gives us some historical context - America was used to mean N + S America, but only prior to the 18th century.

I will admit that if you are from the 17th century, your confusion is reasonable, but I question how you found HN.

More importantly, at least 95% of the English-speaking world disagrees with you, and that's the real test of language and definitions.

I'm curious - in what way is Germany not an appropriate name? My understanding is that it's a translation of Deutschland, and considered an exact synonym. I'll admit that hundreds of years ago Germany or Germania meant something different from modern-day Deutschland, but I fail to see how that's relevant.

Germany is the biggest Germanic country (population-wise) but the Dutch and others are Germanians, too. Much like the US is the biggest American country, but Canadians are Americans, too. It would be weird to use the word "Germane" in German for Germans, because we would picture some wild guys fighting Romans. For the same reason, you do not call the French Gallian or the Italian Roman.

I indeed said "American" and at least cited some sort of source instead of claiming that you are "95%" wrong, but lets keep it with this. I mentioned the German-story anecdotally. Nobody really cares. Names are just words, you can just relax, when its clear, what the word was intended to say.

I promise to add a "North" the next time and hope, that I will not get chased by angry Mexicans.

Here's the section of the law that he was charged under:

False statements, evasion of duties

153. No person shall

(b) to avoid compliance with this Act or the regulations, (i) destroy, alter, mutilate, secrete or dispose of records or books of account, (ii) make, or participate in, assent to or acquiesce in the making of, false or deceptive entries in records or books of account, or (iii) omit, or participate in, assent to or acquiesce in the omission of, a material particular from records or books of account;

I'm not a lawyer, but I would be pretty dismayed if a court agrees that this covers withholding a password.

I"m a US lawyer, and uh, this looks remarkably weak of a charge unless their is some canadian precedent somewhere that says "records or books of account" covers "random shit on non-business phone"

I believe I read that this type of case has not been tested in Canadian courts yet.

That seems to indicate that clearing your phone immediately prior to crossing the border would also be illegal.

Interesting. I don't have a password. And I defy you to unlock my phone.

The question is "Can I be forced to unlock my own phone? Under what circumstances? Under what circumstances can I be charged for refusing to do so?"

If you haven't already guessed, I use a complex swipe pattern, one that uses all nine points and cannot be determined from reading the grease streaks, at least not easily. I know this because I moved to the current pattern after my daughter unlocked my phone by reading the grease streak. I changed the pattern and handed it back. It even used the previous pattern. She took one luck, uttered an obscenity, and handed back the phone.

Can I be compelled to describe how to perform the swipe? To describe the pattern? To guide the agent? Interesting questions....

>Can I be compelled to describe how to perform the swipe? To describe the pattern? To guide the agent?

Yes, yes and yes.

Until there is legal precedent, if they want into your phone and you don't provide them access, you'll be in trouble. Any "cleverness" regarding a security code will likely make it worse.

And this is why deniable encryption is important: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deniable_encryption

A swipe pattern is no different than a password, either legally or practically speaking. It's just a nine digit number (with restrictions); the fact that it's swiped instead of entered is for ease of your own memory, nothing else.

Smartphones should have optional extra user accounts, with no indication of whether they exist. Same phone number, but the account you use is the one that records the history. Keep one mostly clean and that's the one you unlock.

Android 5.0 does. It's actually quite hidden and I only found out about it by mistake when playing with my new update (although I remembered Google announced it earlier after that, but had forgotten about it).

More operating systems should be doing this, including desktop ones. Windows makes multiple accounts too obvious.

Why would this get downvoted??

That sounds a lot like how TrueCrypt worked, before the developers discontinued it's development for unknown reasons.

The idea of nations and borders is one the time for has passed.

I personally don't care what invisible, made-up lines you were born within or without. Do you?

Actually, yes I do. I care that I was not born inside the invisible lines of an oppressive regime. I'm also sure there are many women who are glad they weren't born in the invisible lines comprising India. There are many other examples.

Considering the amount of rights you posses correlate directly to what invisible lines you're currently in, I think just about everybody cares, actually. Until nation states actually go away, they are very much important.

So... You're right, of course, but I think the spirit of TC's comment was that he or she doesn't like the idea of nations and thinks people just just be able to go/live wherever they want. In that sense, the two of you actually seem to agree with the core sentiment that "where you're born shouldn't matter," I don't think anyone's trying to argue that it currently doesn't.

It's currently being abused and an excuse for search and seizure. And I agree, I care about everyone equally and want everyone to be treated kindly and fairly. Most government is corrupted by capitalism functioning at its extremities.

This sounds more like a platitude than a thought I can actually agree or disagree with. What does it even mean? You want to abolish rule of law? You want everybody to be ruled by the Communist Party of China (now the Community Party of The World)? You just want everybody to behave the way you imagine people ought to behave in a utopia?

I agree, that statement is too vague, so I wouldn't comment on it, but for what it's worth I also have an opinion on that matter, so let me reply.

Personally, I don't want to be "ruled" by anybody and I don't really believe in "law". However, I don't assume possible to believe that people actually would be kind to each other and live in utopia: it is very likely that there will be somebody who will want to make use of other's unprotectedness, so the society will have to regulate it somehow. But the real problem is there is a lot of tasks to be done by the members of the society "together" (like building roads and stuff), and the most active/authoritative people in this society are practically the government, so there will be governments. And who has power, can abuse it. Therefore, it doesn't matter how much I dislike current governments: it is as it is, no use to talk about that.

However, it is relatively fair to want "not to be touched as long as you don't touch others". So I don't really care how those, who are "the government" will solve questions like who controls some territory: as long as there's no war between these countries and I'm not doing anything that was allowed in the first country, but not in the second one (like carrying a gun on the street) I'd like to never notice I actually "left country". Somehow it is possible in Europe (to certain degree: to the less degree that I can wish for, by the way, but nevertheless), but not between USA and Canada, who aren't fighting with each other, AFAIK.

Also, it is trendy to justify everything with some "dangerous aggressive nation out there, being terrorist menace for us". But as it happens, things usually have some reason to happen. And "aggressive nations" aren't that aggressive unless you abuse them somehow: say, by invading their country or at least drawing (without any real purpose: just because you can) obviously offensive pictures on public resources about people they love and respect.

Many parts of the world had not formed into modern nations states 300 years ago. Surely there was the rule of law in many places without the current idea of nations. There is no a priori reason the current political organization of people is eternal, or even very durable.

By 'not durable', do you mean 'the concept stretches as far back as we have written records'? Yes, 'nations' meaning 'something that gives you a passport' haven't been around long, but 'nations' meaning 'geopolitical entities' is as old as record-keeping itself.

And what do you mean by 'rule of law'? Do the decisions of tribal elders count? That doesn't suggest consistency, which is the spirit of the term.

>but 'nations' meaning 'geopolitical entities' is as old as record-keeping itself

This is completely untrue. States as we recognize them in the modern sense have only existed since the 17th Century in Europe[0], and much later in other parts of the world[1]. Before this time, political organizations consisted of kingdoms, principalities, city-states, tribes, and various other small groupings of people.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westphalian_sovereignty [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decolonization

This is completely untrue. States as we recognize them in the modern sense

Well, I said 'nations', in response to the parent saying 'nations'. I didn't say 'states'. If you are going to be pedantic, then be pedantic correctly.

Before this time, political organizations consisted of kingdoms, principalities, city-states, tribes, and various other small groupings of people.

I guess places like Egypt, the Roman Empire, and Ming were all 'small groupings of people'?

That somehow 'Rome', that stretched from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, was merely a 'city state'? Even after the capital was moved to a different city half a continent away? That despite having a complicated system of senators, emperors, provincial governors (or that they even had the concept of 'provinces'!) and so forth, that there was no 'political organisation'?

In the context of the conversation, the OP's 'nations and borders', there's nothing wrong with what I said - 'nations' and 'borders' have been around for as long as we have records.

City-states are not comparable to modern nations in their scope, budget, police powers, military powers, surveillance powers, etc. A return to smaller political units that don't have the resources to mount, for example, pervasive surveillance and large-scale incarceration might make us freer than we are now.

In other words, maybe national politics needs to be refactored into smaller units to be more tractable and maintainable.

"A return to"? You make it sound like the empires of old simply couldn't be oppressive, simply because they didn't have hi-tech surveillance.

Not to mention that industrial-scale slavery existed in quite a few places well before the modern era. "Returning to" the ways of the past is very much not guaranteed to reduce our oppression.

Your comment seems to hinge on the nuance of phrases like "modern nations", "the current idea of nations" and "current political organization of people", but I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean and what you're trying to distinguish it from. If you mean that the precise set of nations and territories that exists today is not fundamental or permanent, that's obviously true, but it doesn't seem to have any bearing on anything.

I agree completely. The whole system of states is based on violence, past and present. Sadly I don't see it going away any time soon.

The idea of nations and borders is one the time for has passed.

Agreed, but the tail of that particular dinosaur is going to do some horrific damage as it thrashes around in the tarpit. Nation-states are becoming more powerful at the same time they're becoming less useful and less necessary.

Where's the line? If you give them your lock screen PIN can they then request your bank app password? The credentials for your work VPN?

There is no line, except perhaps for the first one. This is why so many of us are totally against crossing that first line and giving up passwords. After that, tis a very steep, slippery slope indeed.

It's actually a good thing they charged him, as now there is a case with standing to determine the legality of this practice. If he wins it creates a precedent if he loses a reason to dispense with the current leadership. Imagine if they tried to force all visitors to divulge their password in order to snoop on the phones. Goodbye vacation business.

So if he's lucky he'll been "precedented" [1]. Would you take that risk for the good of everyone, especially when it could go wrong? As much as I'd like to say yes, I'm not sure I would.

[1] http://goo.gl/uvIkmC

Border guards had me unlock my phone to check text messages and my emails in regards to a car I was trying to import, to see if I was lying about the value. I wasn't. It was horrible but refusing meant serious fines and perhaps jail time.

Just think, criminal master minds probably run amok unbeknownst to all of us simply because they delete their text messages and emails after committing their crimes.

Did they go through your phone because you told them you had text messages and/or emails where the value was discussed?

No, I brought out my phone to bring up an email showing the ebay ad for the car in question and at that point they asked me to hand over my phone.

From now on, I'm backing it up and wiping it before I get to the border. Just on principle.

Unfortunately, the best policy when dealing with these people is "say and do as little as possible". Give one word answers and don't offer any other information that you're specifically asked for. Also, don't engage in any friendly conversation. I tried that before and would get hounded by questions whereas if I just answer "Yes", "no", "2 weeks", "travelling" then I get through much more quickly.

I ended up in a conversation with a moronic border security twat on my only ever business trip to the states.

"So your company writes software for Americans?" "So an American company bought your company?" "So your company is now owned by Americans? Why didn't they write the software here?" "If it's now American, why can't the training be provided by Americans?"

I was pretty sure he was going to ask why the fuck I wasn't time travelling in order to ensure everything was done by Americans.

All this after enduring repeated announcements for military personnel to come and enjoy the FREEDOM LOUNGE in Denver or Detroit, whatever shithole it was that I was travelling through.

From my view as a non-American? Farcical.

Time again to remind people:


"Don't talk to Police"

While good overall advice, I understand that those protections do not cover you at the border. As an American entering the US, yes you just need to provide a customs declaration. As a non-US person, it's not clear what rights you have. They certainly don't need to permit you entry.

Sure. It's certainly more complicated at borders (or, in the US "border zone" https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights-governments-100-mile-b... ), especially for us non-US citizens, but the underlying sentiment still holds.

The other guy does not have your interests in mind. He knows the rules better than you, and knows which rules you probably don't know and what he will get away with when bending the rules. He's probably not specifically out to get _you_, but he's definitely being measured on his "performance" by whoever pays him, and that means he's highly motivated to "get" enough people, whether or not it's deserved. Anything you say is less likely to convince him of your innocence than it is likely to give him more ammunition to use against you.

Make both of your lives easier - firstly don't do anything wrong, secondly answer any questions he has with the briefest possible truthful and polite/respectful answer. You'll get waved through, and he'll move on to the next talkative and/or disrespectful person and give them a hard time. (For those of us who aren't US citizens, remember it _is_ a privilege to be permitted to visit, a privilege the possibly minimum-wage customs/immigration/border people on the ground have the authority to revoke.)

"For those of us who aren't US citizens, remember it _is_ a privilege to be permitted to visit, a privilege the possibly minimum-wage customs/immigration/border people on the ground have the authority to revoke"

This is a libelous accusation. The US Government doesn't pay its employees minimum wage. Those border police make more than engineers and programmers on average.

Normally I use that tactic but it's not always the best move. I got stopped entering Canada from the US. They checked my passport and knew I had felonies.

I told them a bunch of stories about my past (committing fraud, working for the Secret Service, etc) and they ate it up. They joked around with me the whole time and were very nice about not letting me in.

Of course I knew there was no downside to opening up because I figured out pretty quickly I wasn't going to be let in. I'd be much less open with a TSA agent who wanted to search my phone.

Does our world have even one country that is not awful but at least passable?

(Preferrably one you can actually live in?)

The shrinking life space makes me contemplate suicide.

I understand that feeling too. I feel like the digital world is becoming extremely claustrophobic, and I'm beginning to feel paranoid since the wikileaks and Snowden leaks.

People _used_ to say "Im moving to New Zealand!", but the Mega/Kimdotcom fiasco and some of the most recent Snowden files show they're no better than any of the rest of them.

I'm hoping Elon gets us to Mars and we get to leave the B-Ark behind on this once-nice rock that we're busy destroying for ourselves...

and now NZ customs is seeking blanket authority to force people to give them passwords at the border

Despite this, Canada is still one of the best countries to live in, IMO. It's still safer and more free than virtually any other country in the world (including the USA). The only lack of freedom is the possibility of being shipped in handcuffs to the USA if you do something that is perfectly legal in Canada but illegal in the USA (mailing cannabis seeds or running an online gambling business for example). However even that slight lack of freedom isn't really an issue for the vast majority of people.

The problem here is: most of people on HN are statistically improbable. Snowden is very improbable. We're not "the vast majority". We're a minority.

I can no longer assess my own security in this world. What if the country I reside in decides to go after my kind of minority?

I think people like Snowden are a very small minority even on HN.

Anybody who uses bitcoin, tor or have encrypted disks can easily become a target.

Not meaning Canada specifically, but one twist in a law and you're nailed. You have no rights when it comes to digital.

If you're not doing anything illegal with tor or encryption, you shouldn't have anything to worry about (in Canada anyway).

Iceland and the Netherlands have pretty decent records on this sort of thing.

The Nordic countries in general are pretty good. The Netherlands is good as you point out. No place is perfect, but these are ok.

I suspect Julian Assange has a different opinion about Sweden, one of the usually-referenced "Nordic countries".

(I guess that sill gives your statement an 80% correct rating, making qualifier "in general" allow it to still be valid...)

Yeh, but is Assange's view on Sweden influenced by a general fear of being deported to the US, or fear of being found guilty of sexual offences?

Why worry about one specific fear when a lot of other frivolous claims can be thrown at you at any time?

If you're actually contemplating suicide (and just making an insensitive joke), you should talk to someone bro.

Am not I already?

The problem is not in suppressing impulses, but in finding a way to live a satisfactory life. Which is becoming harder and harder. Rationally, why continue living if you feel under water most of time?

I find it particularly hard to keep my head up with this sort of thing too.

What you're saying isn't untrue, but I haven't found a particular solution to any of it.

Them being allowed to search my phone is one thing, but how is not unlocking it "obstructing border officials"?

Where I come from (Europe), you aren't required by law to help police (or border officials). If they come with a warrant to search your house and your door is closed, you aren't allowed to obstruct them by barricading your door but you are not required to help them by opening your door either (be prepared to pay for your new door though). Is that different in Canada?

Since the digital storage of a phone cannot contain a firearm, explosive, blade, protected species of plant or animal, or a pork sausage, they have no goddamned business.

Please look into the details of the court papers before making a judgement.

I would say that at least 70-80% of these stories leave out very important details and contexts - to mold what happened to fit whatever narrative the spinners subscribe to.

For example -

The person could have been importing a large amount of goods with him that exceeded the value he stated.

Once questioned about the disparity, he might have made statements about having the transactions documented in his phone.

The boarder agents would then have asked to see those transactions. Or even said, "could you just turn on your phone, move the screen towards us, and show us (or just email it to us so we can print out and attach the record to your declaration)".

I've looked into pretty much every major story, and once you get passed the superficial reporting, and into the actual details, it becomes depressingly clear that the media (at all levels and all sides) are just political (or ideological) organizations that filter, mold, and in a lot of cases make up, everything they put out.

Actually majority of people searched going through borders turn out to be perfectly innocent... Which means that if the law does allow officers to search everybody's personal information on their electronic devices they can browse at will my personal communication every time I cross the border.

One good thing about this story is that electronic device searches on Canadian borders are somewhat in the legal grey zone and this will force the courts to clarify the rules. And... allow public to voice their approval or disapproval of this ongoing practice.

I don't think I was stating otherwise.

This gives me an idea for an app to make for mobile phones.

Leave the phone off or turn it off before you get to the airport Security line then when you turn it on the app auto-starts which makes the phone slowly boot.

Then when the phone does finally boot it shows a fake screen showing "Installing update 1 of 44" and make it so it never ends.

My password is my index finger I should change it to my middle finger, my password is written down and really complex I'd never be able to remember it without seeing it.

Unfortunately for our good hero at the border, this mess all needs to be tested in the courts. He's just the prop for whatever organizations want to line up behind him. Just as the 'prosecutors' will be the prop for the actors lined up behind the definition of their current policies.

See you in a decade when this all shakes out.

I hear they can even copy your whole drive and send the contents off for analysis:


Do we not have a "you shall not be compelled to testify against your own person" in Canada?

For those unaware, here in Canada they've started playing catch-up ever since the snowden leaks, and they've been doing it with the same strategy (wait for any kind of terrorist attack and manipulate the people)

Giving someone the password allows more than just looking around. Giving someone the password also allows them to modify the data on the device.

Even if you "have nothing to hide", this is worrying. Who knows what has been changed on your device?

Idea: When you're traveling change your settings to load the grub shell -- they ask for the password and you can say, "There is no password. It's a Linux grub-shell, just type the commands you want the computer to execute."

Deplorable. Where notebooks are concerned, it reminds me of a TrueCrypt decoy password feature that would unlock a 'clean' hidden volume when entered in place of your 'working' volume password. Might be mistaken, though.

Here is an idea for workaround. Have two passwords. One normal, the other one wipes out the phone. Back up your device to the cloud before you travel. Hand it in with a good smile and bad password...

Why is someone looking at your cellphone not in the same privacy level as someone reading your mail? Would customs officials ask to read your letters?

I wonder if it would be considered even more suspicious to not carry any phones or other electronic devices at all across a border?

At least with a password you can refuse. With a fingerprint it's very easy to actually force you to unlock your device.

out of curiosity, I wonder what would happen if an app was made to lock the phone down for a period of time or some other future forward criteria. Can they charge you when you don't actually know the password.

This kind of thing is a big f'ing deal breaker.

American case law doesn't really hold for Canada.

And in any case, at borders there is not the same level of protection as within the country:


"This doctrine is not actually an exception to the Fourth Amendment, but rather to the Amendment's requirement for a warrant or probable cause. Balanced against the sovereign's interests at the border are the Fourth Amendment rights of entrants. Not only is the expectation of privacy less at the border than in the interior,the Fourth Amendment balance between the interests of the Government and the privacy right of the individual is also struck much more favorably to the Government at the border.This balance at international borders means that routine searches are "reasonable" there, and therefore do not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription against "unreasonable searches and seizures"

> Not only is the expectation of privacy less at the border than in the interior ...

Begging the question, wouldn't you say? The only reason there is less expectation of privacy at the border is because of government policies, like this one, whose constitutionality is open to question.

> Begging the question, wouldn't you say?

Yes I would!

Also see United States v Ickes


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