Guess What? Canada Border Services Agency Searches Your Laptop Too
It seems that US Customs And Border Protection aren’t the only ones who search laptops. According to the BC Civil Liberties Association, Canada Border Services Agency does the same thing. Now documents in terms of the policies that Canada Border Services Agency use were requested by this group in the form of a freedom of information request, but when the eventually arrived they were heavily redacted. But here’s some of what came out of what was provided to them:
- Canada Border Services Agency uses a piece of Windows-only software called ICWhatUC to scan for images. Ignoring the fact that this software is kind of lame, the take home message is that if you’re coming to Canada, bring a Mac or a LINUX box.
- Canada Border Services Agency understands that most ‘Japanese Anime’ is not child pornography, and that your family photos (even with kids in the tub) aren’t child pornography either. That’s good to know.
- Officers from the Canada Border Services Agency will look for user accounts visible on the login screen, note the operating system and any encryption. There are also suggested image and keyword searches to guide officers noted in the documents. Therefore if you use encryption or you password protect your laptop, you’re likely to get somebody’s attention at the Canadian border.
However, there were some key items missing from the BC Civil Liberties Association request:
Five key areas were not addressed adequately (or at all) in the CBSA’s response to our request:
- Criteria for selection of individuals for device inspection. Information was referred to, and some information provided, but the contents of these sections were heavily redacted.
- Policies for copying and retention of electronic information. Some information was provided, but it only referred to cases where potentially criminal conduct was detected during the CBSA’s initial search. Further information is required here.
- Statistics on the number and kinds of devices inspected.
- Demographic information on individuals whose devices have been inspected.
- Policies for the distribution of electronic information copied from electronic devices to other government agencies.
The documents that the BC Civil Liberties Association did get are online for you to look at, and I would recommend that you do if you are Canadian or planning to visit Canada.
The current Conservative government in Canada promised to be more open and accountable to it’s citizens. Just take a look at this YouTube video with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in it to see what I’m talking about. But it seems that they are practicing the exact opposite. Just look at this issue and another burning issue in Canada involving documents relating to how Canada handled Afghan prisoner transfers and the Conservatives unwillingness to hand them over to Parliament. This is even more troublesome when you consider that US Customs And Border Protection have made their policies public for the most part.
The core issue is this: How can we trust that Canada Border Services Agency isn’t doing racial profiling or something else “evil” if we can’t see what they’re doing? Are we supposed to just trust them?
I don’t think so.
Canada Border Services Agency needs to come clean on this sooner rather than later. Doing so would make the traveling public feel better. Until that happens, you’ve been warned about what these guys are doing.