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"Sterilizing" electronic equipment before coming thru CBP?

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Old Feb 16, 17, 7:14 pm
  #16
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
Why not get a burner phone for when you travel?
Good point. Every non-U.S. airport I've ever transited always has at least one mobile phone booth right outside customs. You can simply rent a phone in-country and turn it in when you leave. I've never done it but I might try it out.
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Old Feb 16, 17, 8:33 pm
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Originally Posted by FliesWay2Much View Post
I leave my personal iPhone at home and bring an unlocked GSM flip phone. I use a local prepaid SIM card for calling home. Like the NASA guy, I also travel with USG-supplied IT equipment. Everything except the operating system and Microsoft Office is in our encrypted cloud. I asked the question of our CIO the other day and they told us to not divulge passwords to our government IT. Instead, we were told to call the general counsel's office from the airport and seek advice.
Your CIO is an idiot. The chances of your being allowed to make a phone call when detained at a port of entry are effectively zero.
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Old Feb 17, 17, 9:46 am
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Originally Posted by buylowsellhigh View Post
http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/13/us/cit...t-border-trnd/

I don't know about everyone else but having someone look thru personal electronics (computer/phone) feels worse than someone searching thru your home... I mean, all of our personal/financial details, including pictures, personal/work emails & files, social media, instant messages, phone logs, the whole 9 yards.

Our phones these days are basically encrypted and backed up to the cloud.. so if you get a new phone, mostly everything gets synched to it. However, after they force you to give up password to your phone, and take it away for 30 minutes, EVERYTHING gets copied off.

In light of this, does anyone think of possibly pre-planning what they would do to safeguard from this sort of intrusion into our personal lives?

Maybe we can start a list of the "practical" things we can protect ourselves with... Among the things I can think of...
  • Disconnect / uninstalling social media (fb/ig/twitter/linkedin/etc)
  • Disconnect / uninstalling work related stuffs (gmail)
  • Disconnect / uninstall / limit personal media (I would think that its fine to search thru 2-3 weeks worth of photos, but NOT cool to look thru 2-3 years)
  • Dropbox (Unsynch folders, uninstall from phone/notebook computer)

Me: US Citizen w/ Global Entry, Precheck, ABTC Card, int'l travel every 4-6 weeks (no Europe/middle east). I've earned my SSSS stripes coming back from Japan/Singapore/China trip so as I'm on the watchlist now, somewhat paranoid, lol.
If I were a CBP officer, before any search of a passenger's phone, I would ask the passenger "Have you deleted any data, apps, emails, or photos from this phone in anticipation of your arrival in the USA?"

Consider what you would do if asked that. Lie to the officer? That's a felony.
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Old Feb 17, 17, 11:34 am
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
If I were a CBP officer, before any search of a passenger's phone, I would ask the passenger "Have you deleted any data, apps, emails, or photos from this phone in anticipation of your arrival in the USA?"

Consider what you would do if asked that. Lie to the officer? That's a felony.
Even if someone deletes something from a phone in anticipation of arrival, I don't think that it's really deleted. My understanding is that phones use flash memory, so deleted things can still be retrieved from a phone.

One question that I have had--if one has a used phone, is one responsible for the contents of the phone that were "deleted" by the previous owner/seller but may still be retrievable with the right software and devices? In theory, selling a phone deletes the information, but in practice, it seems that many only use factory restore settings which does not make the data irretrievable.
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Old Feb 17, 17, 11:52 am
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
If I were a CBP officer, before any search of a passenger's phone, I would ask the passenger "Have you deleted any data, apps, emails, or photos from this phone in anticipation of your arrival in the USA?"

Consider what you would do if asked that. Lie to the officer? That's a felony.
Even just a decent liar-, er, lawyer, will slaughter that on cross. In an anticipation of arrival in the USA? Nope. In an effort to prevent or minimize unwarranted government intrusion and harassment? Sure. and that's just for starters.

Of course, if it's gotten that far the passenger has already lost....
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Old Feb 17, 17, 12:33 pm
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Or CBP could ask "Have you deleted anything from the phone in the last week?" There are a bunch of ways to ask it, and it can put a deleter in a real bind, and raise the 'ole blood pressure if you have to choose between lying or admitting what you've deleted.

I would suggest, as I always do, that you just don't answer any questions in secondary inspection if you're American, including questions about the contents of your electronic devices.
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Old Feb 17, 17, 1:30 pm
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Originally Posted by guflyer View Post
Even if someone deletes something from a phone in anticipation of arrival, I don't think that it's really deleted. My understanding is that phones use flash memory, so deleted things can still be retrieved from a phone.

One question that I have had--if one has a used phone, is one responsible for the contents of the phone that were "deleted" by the previous owner/seller but may still be retrievable with the right software and devices? In theory, selling a phone deletes the information, but in practice, it seems that many only use factory restore settings which does not make the data irretrievable.
If it is an iPhone - if you delete it, it's gone forever.
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Old Feb 17, 17, 2:01 pm
  #23
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
I would suggest, as I always do, that you just don't answer any questions in secondary inspection if you're American, including questions about the contents of your electronic devices.
CBP can't deny you entry to the USA as an American citizen by law, but in theory they could detain you about as long as they want. And there's almost any number of things they can (and will) pull if they don't want you here (see here: https://papersplease.org/wp/2014/01/...urn-to-the-us/) that can significantly delay your entry. And, they could simply seize all of your electronic devices and not return them to you for weeks/months (which might be the best actual pragmatic reason to have a burner phone when travelling). And this all presumes they accept that your USA passport is legitimate and not a fake, which opens up a whole different can of worms. And, of course, this only really applies to when one is entering a country where one is a citizen; had I not unlocked my phone for the agent at CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) during secondary inspection, I presume they would have simply denied me entry, which would have likely caused significant issues on any later attempts to enter Canada in my lifetime, as well as have been something I would have had to list elsewhere if entering other countries (some countries ask if you've ever been denied entry to any country), potentially causing issues there.

It's one thing for people to talk tough, but for many (not all) a full-out tinfoil hat approach is less than desirable.

Last edited by TheBOSman; Feb 17, 17 at 2:07 pm
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Old Feb 18, 17, 6:49 pm
  #24
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
If I were a CBP officer, before any search of a passenger's phone, I would ask the passenger "Have you deleted any data, apps, emails, or photos from this phone in anticipation of your arrival in the USA?"

Consider what you would do if asked that. Lie to the officer? That's a felony.
Originally Posted by Section 107 View Post
Even just a decent liar-, er, lawyer, will slaughter that on cross. In an anticipation of arrival in the USA? Nope. In an effort to prevent or minimize unwarranted government intrusion and harassment? Sure. and that's just for starters.

Of course, if it's gotten that far the passenger has already lost....
This is easy (perhaps not in the heat of battle). I have thought this scenario through and would answer such a question as follows:

"OK, officer (hate using that patronizing term). If I answer "Yes", I have just incriminated myself. If I say "No" and you find something to the contrary, I have just lied to a federal "officer." Given those two choices, I will exercise my Constitutional rights and decline to answer your question."
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Old Feb 18, 17, 11:11 pm
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Originally Posted by TheBOSman View Post
CBP can't deny you entry to the USA as an American citizen by law, but in theory they could detain you about as long as they want. And there's almost any number of things they can (and will) pull if they don't want you here (see here: https://papersplease.org/wp/2014/01/...urn-to-the-us/) that can significantly delay your entry. And, they could simply seize all of your electronic devices and not return them to you for weeks/months (which might be the best actual pragmatic reason to have a burner phone when travelling). And this all presumes they accept that your USA passport is legitimate and not a fake, which opens up a whole different can of worms. And, of course, this only really applies to when one is entering a country where one is a citizen; had I not unlocked my phone for the agent at CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) during secondary inspection, I presume they would have simply denied me entry, which would have likely caused significant issues on any later attempts to enter Canada in my lifetime, as well as have been something I would have had to list elsewhere if entering other countries (some countries ask if you've ever been denied entry to any country), potentially causing issues there.

It's one thing for people to talk tough, but for many (not all) a full-out tinfoil hat approach is less than desirable.
CBP officers do not have the authority to hold American citizens at airports "as long as they want." They also don't seize electronic devices on a whim. Americans fear CBP officers much more than they should. That's why you end up with NASA scientists unnecessarily turning over the passwords to their phones.

I have personally been asked by a CBP officer for the password to my phone. I said no. The officer threatened to seize it, I suspected that was a bluff, it was.

I have personally refused to answer questions from CBP officers many times. The officers may tell you that you "have" to answer, and threaten to keep you there indefinitely, but it's a bluff. If you're American, they will let you go in a few hours.

Americans need to stop being so scared of CBP officers and start standing up for basic rights.
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Old Feb 18, 17, 11:42 pm
  #26
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
CBP officers do not have the authority to hold American citizens at airports "as long as they want."
Please quote my entire statement rather than extremely selective quoting. I qualified the statement twice, with "in theory" and "about".

Also, did you read the link I mentioned where a US Citizen was forced to receive an active permission to fly to the USA?

Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
They also don't seize electronic devices on a whim.

Americans fear CBP officers much more than they should. That's why you end up with NASA scientists unnecessarily turning over the passwords to their phones.

I have personally been asked by a CBP officer for the password to my phone. I said no. The officer threatened to seize it, I suspected that was a bluff, it was.
Mostly because to seize someone's phone involves paperwork and extra tracking and work for the officer, as well as the eventual cost that CBP pays to eventually ship the device back to you. Once you said no, they had to decide whether your threat level was really so high as to justify that. They clearly decided it didn't reach that high.

Don't think I don't have significant amounts of EFF and ACLU and other alphabet organizations guidelines memorized, as I do. I'm very aware of my rights in many situations involving law enforcement. However, I'm also aware of what legal capabilities law enforcement has in the same situations.

Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
I have personally refused to answer questions from CBP officers many times. The officers may tell you that you "have" to answer, and threaten to keep you there indefinitely, but it's a bluff. If you're American, they will let you go in a few hours.
Sure. Those few hours might be extremely costly for some people though, especially if entering the country at a port of entry far from their actual home. A missed flight, missed day of work, missed client meeting, missed family event, those can all be very costly. I'm fortunate that the one time CBP has sent me to secondary, they could have kept me 8-12 hours even and it wouldn't really have changed my plans for what I was doing. They seemed to sense I was extremely relaxed and not bothered (I think this irritated the original agent, who seemed to decide he wanted to try to get me riled up), heck the two CBP agents going through my things in the secondary inspection seemed irritated that the original agent had sent me over to them at all!

Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
Americans need to stop being so scared of CBP officers and start standing up for basic rights.
It's never as simple as it gets made out to be by so many. Especially when the other person has color of law and a gun.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 12:04 am
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Secondary inspection can certainly be intimidating and even more so if you choose to stand up for yourself. We can agree on that. The first time I refused to answer questions, it was quite uncomfortable, because the officers were quite shouty and because I hadn't fully researched my rights and was a little unsure.

The last half dozen have been pretty easy though. I've never been held longer than 3 hours, I don't think 8-12 hours or use of gun are within the realm of reasonable possibility.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 1:11 am
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
The last half dozen have been pretty easy though. I've never been held longer than 3 hours, I don't think 8-12 hours or use of gun are within the realm of reasonable possibility.
I do doubt both of those as well (time and gun use), mostly because it's more of a pain for CBP to detain you than for your local PD to toss you in a jail cell. But the perception can often be more important than the reality.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 3:10 pm
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It helps to have a backup or dummy phone which you do not mind losing and deleting all your data. Or in my case, do not bring my phone at all when traveling internationally and use a phone card or prepaid phone when reaching your country of destination.
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Old Feb 19, 17, 10:36 pm
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Originally Posted by jphripjah View Post
CBP officers do not have the authority to hold American citizens at airports "as long as they want." They also don't seize electronic devices on a whim. Americans fear CBP officers much more than they should. That's why you end up with NASA scientists unnecessarily turning over the passwords to their phones.
Rights and what happens in reality often are different.

I have personally been asked by a CBP officer for the password to my phone. I said no. The officer threatened to seize it, I suspected that was a bluff, it was.
Can be a bluff, can be real.

I have personally refused to answer questions from CBP officers many times. The officers may tell you that you "have" to answer, and threaten to keep you there indefinitely, but it's a bluff. If you're American, they will let you go in a few hours.

Americans need to stop being so scared of CBP officers and start standing up for basic rights.
We have too many examples of them not obeying the rules.
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