Airport security can throw out your mouthwash, make you walk barefoot in public and conduct a full-body scan — but do they have the right to get into your phone?
Canadian man Alain Philippon encountered the dilemma when he flew into Halifax Stanfield International Airport last week, returning to his home country from the Dominican Republic, and border agents demanded that he enter the password to unlock his phone so they could search it, the CBC reported.
Philippon refused, saying the information on his phone was “personal.”
He was arrested.
Do border agents have the right to force someone to unlock their phone?
In the U.S., the Fifth Amendment protects individuals from self-incrimination and as the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, law enforcement generally needs a warrant to compel the unlocking of a phone or computer because providing the password is considered self-incriminating testimony by most courts.
However, as CNET noted, even though the Supreme Court has ruled that cops need a warrant to get a phone password, U.S. border agents don’t need a warrant or even individualized suspicion to conduct a “forensic” search of your phone or computer.
As for Canada, the issue of phone passwords has apparently never been tried in court.
Philippon will go to court on May 12, facing charges of hindering border agents under Canada’s Customs Act, the CBC reported.
He could face up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine — and the Canada Border Services Agency wouldn’t even tell the CBC why Philippon’s phone had been targeted for inspection in the first place.
For now, travelers should be prepared to surrender their rights at the Canadian border.
“Under the Customs Act, customs officers are allowed to inspect things that you have, that you’re bringing into the country,” Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, told the CBC. “The term used in the act is ‘goods,’ but that certainly extends to your cellphone, to your tablet, to your computer, pretty much anything you have.
—Courtesy of TheBlaze