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Spreading the word about our rights the border

Our ads informing travelers about the rules for searching digital devices at borders and airports are now up on public transit. But we need to keep spreading the word about how we can get  out-of-date search rules changed.

Our campaign to update digital privacy rules made headlines recently when Vancouver International Airport authorities refused to allow OpenMedia ads at a nearby public transit station.

The ads informed travelers about their privacy rights at the border, in particular the out-of-date rules that border agents use to search through the highly personal contents of phones and laptops, without a warrant. 

It’s incredibly concerning that airport authorities don’t appear to want people to know about their digital privacy rights at the border.

So instead, with the support of thousands of people who have joined the campaign, we were able to put ads in most of the Canada Line trains that take travelers to YVR airport. 

We carry incredible amounts of highly personal information on our devices, from emails, photos, texts, banking and health apps to confidential business files. 

Frighteningly, our laws haven’t kept up to date with modern technology. They come from the filing cabinet era, where no one was traveling with the equivalent of years of personal messages stored on a tiny device that fits in your pocket.

And because our laws are so out of date, border agents interpret them as giving them the right to search devices without a warrant or even any suspicion. In fact, digital devices are classified as ‘mere goods’ – the same classification as the clothes in your suitcase. 

Recent scandals such as a lawyer carrying privileged client information having his devices seized at the airport, and a Sunday school teacher falsely accused of drug smuggling being strip searched and forced to give up her cell phone password highlight just how urgently we need the government to take action.

Most people in Canada don’t know much about their rights at the border, much less what the rules for device searches are or how to file a complaint if the rules aren't followed.

We need to spread the word! To find out more about these issues, and to share the information with your friends, visit borderprivacy.ca.

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