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Can border officers look at my iPhone and Blackberry? Yes, and here’s how to protect your information.

Officers with the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have the power to search through iPhones, Blackberrys, laptops and other electronic devices on a variety of grounds. In fact, information found on a traveler’s phone was used to prosecute a person for an immigration misrepresentation last year.

Earlier this year, National Geographic debuted a TV show entitled Border Security in which camera crews follow Canada Border Services Agency officers in their day-to-day jobs. Numerous episodes show officers going through traveler’s phones and laptops in their investigations.

In many cases, individuals have legitimate information on electronic devices that is confidential and may not have anything to do with a person’s entry to Canada. Problems can occur when border services officers review these devices and come across information that is not relevant to their investigation.

A few years ago, the Canadian Bar Association put out this article on how to protect your data when crossing international borders. This information is important for individuals who carry confidential client data with them when they travel.

While the article is a bit dated, the general principles are the same. When crossing an international border, if you have confidential information to protect, it is important that you take steps to protect that information before you travel. You may not know who is reviewing it.

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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