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Canada proposes allowing border agents to search people’s phones, emails, texts, photos

Privacy groups are pushing back.
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A bill introduced in the Canadian Senate could give border agents the power to search electronic devices and look through texts, emails, and photos.

The bill gives the border agents the power to search devices if they determine there are “reasonable general concerns.”

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

“At any time up to the time of release or at any time up to the time of exportation, an officer designated under subsection (2) may, in accordance with the regulations, examine documents, including emails, text messages, receipts, photographs or videos, that are stored on a personal digital device that has been imported or is about to be exported and is in the custody or possession of a person if the officer has a reasonable general concern,” the bill states.

For privacy advocates, the issue is that the bill does not clearly define the so-called “reasonable general concern.”

“The very low (and legally novel) threshold of ‘reasonable general concern’ for border officials to conduct a search of a traveler’s personal electronic device does not adequately protect travelers’ privacy,” the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote.

CCLA also noted that searching through someone’s phone is much more intrusive than searching their suitcase.

“Searching through the intimate details of our lives contained on our phone or laptop is not the same as digging through a box or suitcase holding a couple of shirts and some socks,” the organization noted.

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