March 16, 2017 10:43 am
Updated: March 16, 2017 10:50 am

Cellphone searches at the border under investigation by privacy watchdog

A privacy watchdog is examining CBSA's practice of examining and even confiscating travellers' cellphones and other personal devices.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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The Canada Border Services Agency‘s (CBSA) practice of examining and even confiscating travellers’ cellphones and other personal devices has come under the scrutiny of the federal privacy watchdog.

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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has launched an investigation following increasing concerns about travellers’ right at the border, according to a report by the National Post.

READ MORE: Canadian border officials can search your cellphone, confiscate your device

CBSA officials have the right to inspect devices such as cellphones, laptops and tablets, and ask for passwords to allow access. If travellers don’t comply, CBSA officers can even confiscate the device.

Electronic devices are classified as “goods,” according to CBSA policy, and under the Customs Act officers have the authority to examine them as part of a routine examination.

READ MORE: Tips for crossing the border without a hassle

CBSA policy states that personal devices should only be searched when officials have reason to believe a device will contain “evidence of contraventions,” or proof you have violated a law through files or information “known or suspected to exist” on your phone.

“Examinations should only occur where there is a multiplicity of indicators, or further to the discovery of undeclared, prohibited, or falsely reported goods,” said CBSA spokesperson Nicholas Dorion in an email to Global News last month.

The CBSA does not require a warrant, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada notes on its website, and “Officers may examine devices for photos, files, contacts and other media.”

READ MORE: What are Canadians’ rights at the U.S. border? Slim to none

What they do with those files — and whether the CBSA can make a copy of any or all the information found on your phone — is unclear.

Global News has reached out to the CBSA and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner but did not hear back by time of publication.

Anyone with concerns about their experience during a search at the border can file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

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