Cybersecurity Blog

What you need to know about crossing the border – 02/10/17

After a Canadian woman was required to surrender her cell phone to US border guards last week and then denied entry, people are wondering what they can do to protect their privacy. Unfortunately, not a whole lot. When crossing the border, you are entering a foreign country and their laws take precedence. They can scan your phone, laptop, tablet or any other device for content as they wish. Any information they find can be used against you. Any sensitive data that is stored can be exposed.

The best way to protect your privacy and that of Mount Royal is to not bring a device with you.  Leave your smartphone, tablet or laptop at home. This is especially true if you are traveling to countries with less than honest border guards who are known hold on to your device until you pay a fine. If you are traveling for business and require portable devices:

  • Ensure that portable devices are wiped clean of anything you want to remain private. This includes removing social media apps and deleting browser, email and text message history.
  • Store data you need access to on Google drive or leave it on your workstation and then use SRAS to access it from your hotel.
  • Make sure you remove your Mount Royal email account from your phone and devices and log out of Google.

Basically you want to turn your smartphone into a phone. It takes calls and that’s it. Theoretically they could ask you to login to your email anyway, however the odds are they are not going to bother.

If you need specific legal advice concerning crossing the border as a Mount Royal University employee, contact Legal Services.

One last piece of advice, be nice to the border guards. Declaring that you have rights as a Canadian citizen will only aggravate them.  You are attempting to enter their country, our privacy laws do not apply.