“Hand me your cell phone and passcode…”
Rory Cellan-Jones, a Technology correspondent for the BBC, tells you all about bringing your cell phone into the U.S. in the “Trump era”.
Next time you plan to cross the U.S. border, better leave your cell phone at home.”
That is the rather startling advice in a blogpost that is being widely shared right now.
Its author, Quincy Larson, is a software engineer, who has previously written about the importance of protecting personal data. He now fears that data could be at risk every time you cross a border.
His concerns were sparked by the story of Sidd Bikkannavar, an American-born Nasa engineer, who flew home from a trip to Chile last month. On arrival in Houston, he was detained by the border police and, by his own account, put under great pressure to hand over the passcode to his smartphone, despite the fact that the device had been issued to him by Nasa.
Eventually, Bikkannavar did hand over both the phone and the passcode. It was taken away for 30 minutes and then returned, and he was free to go.
Larson sees this as a very dangerous precedent: “What we’re seeing now is that anyone can be grabbed on their way through customs and forced to hand over the full contents of their digital life.”
We also know that the new homeland security secretary, John Kelly, has talked of requiring visa applicants to hand over passwords to their social media accounts – though whether that could apply at the border too is not clear.
And on Thursday, a new Republican congressman took to Twitter to announce proudly that he had introduced his first bill – to require the review of visa applicants’ social media.
Larson predicts that a policy where travellers are asked to download the contents of their phones will soon become commonplace, not just in the United States but around the world.
Hence his advice to leave your mobile phone and laptop at home and rent devices when you get to your destination.