August 1, 2018 8:56 pm
Updated: September 8, 2018 11:58 pm

How to protect your data if you’re crossing the border for the long weekend

WATCH: Canadian border officials can search your cellphone, confiscate your device

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Planning a trip across the border this August long weekend? Civil liberties advocates want to remind you of your rights when it comes to your electronic devices.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has released a handbook to help guide travellers in the event a border guard asks to search their phones, tablets or computers.

READ MORE: New rules let U.S. border agents access data on phones, laptops — but not on the cloud


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The “Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook” covers everything from how to act at the crossing to what to do if you’re being searched.

Staff counsel Meghan McDermott said cellphones are actually treated as “goods” at the border.

“They’re basically treated the same as a box of shoes,” she said.

According to the BCCLA, there is no public list of what criteria border officials can use as grounds to search your devices.

READ MORE: Should you worry about U.S. border agents searching your phone? Yes, says privacy czar

But the organization says there is anecdotal evidence of behaviours that might make you more of a target.

Those include importing things that border guards deem suspicious, or having travelled to destinations deemed “high risk.”

WATCH: Few limits on inspections at foreign border crossings

Travelling alone may also get you noticed, as might buying ticket at the last minute, taking an unusual travel route or exhibiting nervous or agitated behaviour.

Additionally, having multiple devices, or evidence of an interest in pornography, could also get you flagged for a more detailed search.

McDermott said if you do get searched, the guide explains your options.

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

“[It covers] what remedies may be available to you [and] who you would be able to complain to depending on the nature of your complaint.”

The guide offers some specific tips to people concerned about the possibility of their device being searched:

  • Leave your devices at home if you don’t need them on your trip
  • Make a backup of your data and leave it at home
  • Securely delete data you do not need to travel with
  • Require a password to log on or access your device
  • Create a strong password using random words
  • Turn off your computer before crossing the border
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Use Full-Disk Encryption and require a strong passphrase to access it
  • Encrypt specific critical documents or files using built-in software
  • Separate privileged and confidential documents into their own folder

McDermott said when travelling out of the country, putting your phone on airplane mode will also protect some information.

She added that border officials are not supposed to access anything that’s not actually on your device but is stored remotely in the cloud.

McDermott said she hopes to see privacy laws updated to reflect how quickly technology is changing.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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