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Canada  

Cellphone searches a worry

Canadians should be "very concerned" about their cell phones, computers and other electronic devices being searched by U.S. border agents, the federal privacy czar says.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien told a House of Commons committee Monday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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.

"These devices contain a lot of sensitive information," Therrien said. "We should be very concerned."

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen asked if that means no Canadian should cross the border with a phone, laptop or tablet unless they have "great comfort" with a U.S. border official inspecting the contents.

"Yes, as a matter of law," Therrien said, though he acknowledged officers would not have time to inspect everyone's devices, given the huge numbers of people that cross the border daily.

Therrien agreed with Cullen's suggestion that nothing in law could prevent U.S. border officials from peeking at a senior Canadian official's "playbook" on a trade negotiation.

Cullen said one of his constituents was denied entry to the U.S. on health-related grounds because information on the person's phone indicated a prescription for heart medication.

"And I thought, well, this is a strange invasion of one's privacy."

Therrien said Canadians should assess the "risk tolerance" they have to their information being examined by U.S. officers.

"My point is, think about what you're exposing your information to, and limit the amount of information that you bring to the U.S., because it may be required by customs officers."



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