Over at Ars Technica, our former Macworld colleague Cyrus Farivar has put together a look at exactly what might happen if you’re asked to unlock your phone at the U.S. border and you refuse:
He concluded: “If I was asked to unlock my phone or computer by border officials today, I would politely say no, ask for an attorney, and deal with the consequences from there.”
However, in 2015, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled in favor of a South Korean businessman who has his laptop seized at Los Angeles International Airport, and searched without a warrant.
The ACLU’s Nathan Freed Wessler, who noted he has personally been sent to secondary screening but has never been asked about his own electronic devices at the border, added that this puts travelers in a “tough spot” between balancing their privacy rights and their ability to get where they are going.
The fact that we have to even think about this issue is unsettling, but we live in unsettling times. Electronic devices carry a lot of our personal information, which is exactly why the government wants to look at them, but it doesn’t mean that they should be given carte blanche to dig through our personal correspondence, private pictures, and so on.