15:26 GMT04 August 2020
Listen Live
    Get short URL

    US Customs agents twice denied a Canadian man entry into the US after reading personal information on his mobile phone.

    A Vancouver man, named Andre, was denied entry into the US after a border agent detained him and read personal information on his phone.

    According to a report by DailyXtra.com, US Customs officers working in the Vancouver airport detained Andre, who claimed that he was visiting a friend in New Orleans, demanding passwords to all the apps on his phone,  including a password for an email app and a gay-hookup app called Scruff. The Scruff profile has a line saying a man is looking for sexual contact, and the border officer assumed it meant that Andre was a "sex worker," or a male prostitute.

    As Andre later told journalists, the border agent browsed through his personal data, asking questions, but with no intention, according to him, of letting him through. Eventually, Andre asked for the interrogation to stop, pledging to return to Canada.

    One month later, Andre attempted to enter the US again, this time bringing proof that he was not a sex worker, in the form of letters from his employer, pay stubs, bank statements, a lease agreement, and phone contracts to prove that he intended to return to Canada. He had also reportedly deleted all sex apps, browser history, and emails from his phone. That turned out to be a mistake, however, as US Customs inspectors considered that to be suspicious.

    "They went through my computer. They were looking through Word documents," André told journalists. "I had nude photos of myself on my phone, and they were questioning who this person was. It was really humiliating and embarrassing."

    "They said, ‘Next time you come through, don't have a cleared phone,' and that was it. I wasn't let through. He said I'm a suspected escort," he added.

    According to Esha Bhandari, staff attorney for the speech privacy and technology project at the American Civil Liberties Union, this is a common practice at the US border, and there is nothing a non-American can do about it: they either give up passwords or are denied entry. Bhandari suggests that this is a civil rights issue.

    "Our mobile devices contain every detail of our lives. Financial information, health information, personal relationship information. If you're a doctor or a lawyer, you might have attorney-client or doctor-patient privileged material on there. Some people that travel for business have very sensitive business information, trade secret information," she said.

    A good option for a person trying to enter the United States is to save all sensitive information to the cloud and delete apps, prior to attempting a border crossing. One can always reinstall apps at a later point on American soil, according to Scruff CEO Eric Silverberg. But Silverberg offers a deeper solution.

    "That said, the best defense against unwarranted searches and seizures by the government is to work to elect leaders who share these ideals and values," Silverberg said.

    It should be noted that it was Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada, and former US President Barack Obama who signed an agreement to greatly expand US Customs' power to detain, question and search people in Canada trying to enter the United States. A bill to implement the agreement was introduced by the Canadian government recently, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is currently reviewing it, according to the media reports.


    Canada's Deadliest Convicted Terrorist Set Free After Twenty Years
    Strong Support in Canada to Continue Military Aid to Ukraine - Defense Ministry
    'Toxic' EU-Canada Trade Deal in Doubt Despite Trudeau High Hopes
    App, phone, Privacy, detention, Human Rights, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Stephen Harper, Barack Obama, Canada, United States
    Community standardsDiscussion