It’s totally legal for a US Customs and Border Patrol officer to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over to them. And they can detain you indefinitely if you don’t. Even if you’re a American citizen

https://medium.freecodecamp.com/ill-never-bring-my-phone-on-an-international-flight-again-neither-should-you-e9289cde0e5f?source=userActivityShare-e67a559148b1-1487167872

34 thoughts on “It’s totally legal for a US Customs and Border Patrol officer to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over to…

  1. Robert Bohl Very true. I’ve been reading about border shenanigans ever since 9/11.

    Still, it feels like t CBP is being emboldened by The Current President™, so I’m glad to see info like this.

    Now I’m just thinking about the logistics of temp/burner phones for travel.

  2. < ![CDATA[Robert Bohl Very true. I've been reading about border shenanigans ever since 9/11. Still, it feels like t CBP is being emboldened by The Current President™, so I’m glad to see info like this.
    Now I’m just thinking about the logistics of temp/burner phones for travel.]]>

  3. < ![CDATA[I want to travel with my regular phone but have a system that allows me to factory-data-reset with a funny swipe like Todd says and then restore it from the cloud at my destination. (Or as soon as I'm through security.)]]>

  4. Christopher Weeks I have to think that we’re going to see solutions like this from Apple, Google, etc. at some point.

    Aside: it seems like a simple option for iPhone user is to back up and then factory reset before departing on your trip, use the phone for calls and handle anything else via the browser. Maybe even reset again when you touch back down in the US, and then restored from backup when you get home.

  5. < ![CDATA[Christopher Weeks I have to think that we're going to see solutions like this from Apple, Google, etc. at some point. Aside: it seems like a simple option for iPhone user is to back up and then factory reset before departing on your trip, use the phone for calls and handle anything else via the browser. Maybe even reset again when you touch back down in the US, and then restored from backup when you get home.]]>

  6. When I went back for my father’s funeral the security theater was ridiculous. I got something of the second degree. No one tried to take any electronics from me, but it was like the guy never heard of the Peace Corps and couldn’t grok that I was serving overseas teaching. I would not be surprised if it got worse, but I’m also a white boy, so I have that privilege going for me.

  7. < ![CDATA[When I went back for my father's funeral the security theater was ridiculous. I got something of the second degree. No one tried to take any electronics from me, but it was like the guy never heard of the Peace Corps and couldn't grok that I was serving overseas teaching. I would not be surprised if it got worse, but I'm also a white boy, so I have that privilege going for me.]]>

  8. I told my boss last week I’m not going to our San Diego headquarters any time soon, given this kind of shenanigans. Besides, they make you unlock/encrypt and then copy all your data.

    I’m pretty sure disclosing the kind of secret data I have on my work laptop would be grounds for terminating my contract. Now what do you do?

  9. < ![CDATA[I told my boss last week I'm not going to our San Diego headquarters any time soon, given this kind of shenanigans. Besides, they make you unlock/encrypt and then copy all your data. I'm pretty sure disclosing the kind of secret data I have on my work laptop would be grounds for terminating my contract. Now what do you do?]]>

  10. < ![CDATA[William, last week they detained a former Norwegian Prime Minister for 9 hours... because he had stamps on his passport from many middle-eastern countries. Where he had been on official state trips, obviously.]]>

  11. I should specify: they copy all your data (imaging your whole phone/computer) and keep it. Forever. On their horribly insecure servers (I’m 100% sure several hacker groups are now probing the ICE network, assuming they aren’t in already, because it will become a veritable treasure trove of personal data, already conveniently encrypted and unprotected).

  12. < ![CDATA[I should specify: they copy all your data (imaging your whole phone/computer) and keep it. Forever. On their horribly insecure servers (I'm 100% sure several hacker groups are now probing the ICE network, assuming they aren't in already, because it will become a veritable treasure trove of personal data, already conveniently encrypted and unprotected).]]>

  13. This all seems one of the best arguments for cloud services that I’ve yet seen. Ditto use of a password manager (so that you don’t actually know most of the passwords you use).

    Granted, cloud services are still susceptible to the “beat you with a $5 wrench” hack.

  14. < ![CDATA[This all seems one of the best arguments for cloud services that I've yet seen. Ditto use of a password manager (so that you don't actually know most of the passwords you use). Granted, cloud services are still susceptible to the "beat you with a $5 wrench" hack.]]>

  15. Well if you need to leave the country, buy a burner at the airport that you can dispose of before you leave seems to be the solution.

    Not as easy to do with a computer, and I’m not sure what happens if you use a chrome book, might want to not take those with you either.

    This definitely needs to be challenged in court. As does the legal status of you at the ‘border’. If you are across the border you should have legal rights, if not then you should have the right to demand to be free to return from the other side.

    Airports are tricky, since you may have actually crossed the border as defined hours before, in which case you should have the legal argument that that the laws now apply as you are inside. Especially if you are a citizen re-entering your country.

  16. < ![CDATA[Well if you need to leave the country, buy a burner at the airport that you can dispose of before you leave seems to be the solution. Not as easy to do with a computer, and I'm not sure what happens if you use a chrome book, might want to not take those with you either. This definitely needs to be challenged in court. As does the legal status of you at the 'border'. If you are across the border you should have legal rights, if not then you should have the right to demand to be free to return from the other side. Airports are tricky, since you may have actually crossed the border as defined hours before, in which case you should have the legal argument that that the laws now apply as you are inside. Especially if you are a citizen re-entering your country.]]>

  17. Joseph Teller The tricky bit here is that a phone is a ridiculously useful tool to have when traveling, and pay phones are largely disappearing (it seems). So being in a airport without a phone — even thought that’s the way life used to be — is pretty daunting.

  18. < ![CDATA[Joseph Teller The tricky bit here is that a phone is a ridiculously useful tool to have when traveling, and pay phones are largely disappearing (it seems). So being in a airport without a phone — even thought that's the way life used to be — is pretty daunting.]]>

  19. Tricky thing is… they do google you. They know you have social media accounts (unless you use, and have always used, a pseudonym, I guess).

    So if you turn up with a phone that has no social media, they can easily take it as you wanting to deliberately sneak past their checks, and detain you or send you back (for us non-USians) unless you give them your accounts. Then and there.

    This guide by Wired has some ideas, but no clear “good answer”.
    wired.com – A Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact

  20. < ![CDATA[Tricky thing is... they do google you. They know you have social media accounts (unless you use, and have always used, a pseudonym, I guess).
    So if you turn up with a phone that has no social media, they can easily take it as you wanting to deliberately sneak past their checks, and detain you or send you back (for us non-USians) unless you give them your accounts. Then and there.
    This guide by Wired has some ideas, but no clear “good answer”.
    wired.com – A Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact]]>