EFF Border Search Pocket Guide

EFF Border Search Pocket Guide to protect your data at U.S. BORDER
Crossing the U.S. border? Border agents may demand your digital data. Here are some
things to keep in mind.
Consider your individual risk assessment factors. Your immigration status, travel history, the sensitivity of your data, and other factors may influence your choices

This is a handy guide designed to be printed, folded, and carried in your pocket while traveling.


Nota : Useful for Israel, China, … too :-)

There is also a full report by EFF on that subject: Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In the Cloud



The U.S. government reported a five-fold increase in the number of electronic media searches at the border in a single year, from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016. Every one of those searches was a potential privacy violation. Our lives are minutely documented on the phones and laptops we carry, and in the cloud. Our devices carry records of private conversations, family photos, medical documents, banking information, information about what websites we visit, and much more. Moreover, people in many professions, such as lawyers and journalists, have a heightened need to keep their electronic information confidential. How can travelers keep their digital data safe?

The U.S. Constitution generally places strong limits on the government’s ability to pry into this information. At the U.S. border, however, those limits are not as strong, both legally and practically. As a matter of the law, some legal protections are weaker – a fact EFF is working to change. As a matter of practice, border agents may take a broad view of what they are permitted to do. Border agents may attempt to scrutinize the content stored on your phones, laptops, and other portable electronic devices. They may try to use your devices as portals to access your cloud content, including electronic communications, social media postings, and ecommerce activity. Moreover, agents may seek to examine your public social media postings by obtaining your social media identifiers or handles. As of this writing, the federal government is considering requiring disclosure from certain foreign visitors of social media login credentials, allowing access to private postings and “friend” lists.

This guide (updating a previous guide from 20112) helps travelers understand their individual risks when crossing the U.S. border, provides an overview of the law around border search, and offers a brief technical overview to securing digital data.

As an initial matter, readers should note that one size does not fit all. We are deeply concerned by invasive and even abusive practices of some border agents, and we are well aware of the serious consequences some travelers may face if they run afoul of a border agent. Many groups, including EFF, are working to establish clear legal protections to help alleviate that fear. In the meantime, however, we know that some travelers will want to take a highly conservative approach, while others will be less concerned. This guide is intended to help you make informed choices according to your situation and risk-tolerance.”

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