News / Canada

Canadians should worry about phone searches at U.S. border, committee hears

Privacy commissioner says Canadians should be very concerned, as their mobile devices can be accessed by U.S. border agents by law.

This Aug. 2, 2017 photo shows the U.S. border crossing post at the Canadian border between Vermont and Quebec, Canada, at Beecher Falls, Vt. The federal privacy czar says Canadians should be very concerned about their cellphones, computers and other electronic devices being searched by U.S. border agents.

AP Photo/Wilson Ring

This Aug. 2, 2017 photo shows the U.S. border crossing post at the Canadian border between Vermont and Quebec, Canada, at Beecher Falls, Vt. The federal privacy czar says Canadians should be very concerned about their cellphones, computers and other electronic devices being searched by U.S. border agents.

OTTAWA — The federal privacy czar says Canadians should be very concerned about their cellphones, computers and other electronic devices being searched by U.S. border agents.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien tells a House of Commons committee that U.S. border officers can look at mobile devices and even demand passwords under American law.  

Therrien cited statistics indicating U.S. border searches of mobile phones had increased between 2015 and 2016.

Therrien says Canadian law also allows border officers to inspect cellphones and other gadgets, since they are treated as goods.

But he notes Canada's border agency has a policy of limiting searches to cases where an officer has grounds to do so — for instance, because a phone might contain information about contraband goods.

Therrien says his office has received a small number of complaints about Canadian border officers searching cellphones.

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