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Data Privacy At International Borders

There is a shocking liberty and data privacy incident going on in Canada. The Canada Border Services or Custom Guards stopped a traveler and asked him for his smart phone password.  He refused.  The traveler was charged with obstructing a customs officer. In Canada, a smart phone can be considered like any other of your belongings and liable to be searched.  The constitutionality is being tested in May, but the border authority still asserts the right to check your smart phone, tablet or computer.  Here is the link:

So, if you want to be immune from these sorts of fishing exercises what can you do?  Here are some tips:

1) Offload documents to a book type external disk. A terabyte drive is less than $100 now. Documents that you will need can be stored in the cloud. There are several cloud providers for file services.

2) Carry documents on a USB stick on a key chain. There are several USB key chain novel items that do not even look like USB keys. Put it on a keychain in plain site. Or here is a pair of USB keys that are earrings:

3) Offload your photos to other storage. They may want to clone your photos to see if you are lying about where you traveled to.

4) When traveling, never use your mail program like OutLook that resides on your computer. Just by firing it up, one can see all of your contacts.

5) If you do have an email account that doesn't have a web interface or browser interface, create a gmail account, that is accessible by browser, and for the duration of travel, forward your mail to the gmail account.

6) Do not download the mobile app for email, either Yahoo, or Gmail or whatever.  Always use the browser.

7) Before crossing international borders, always erase your browsing history and delete all of your cookies.  That way, it will not even be apparent that you have a web email account.

8) It goes without saying, do not have questionable documents or pictures on your devices.  You know what they are.

9) In many countries, your hard disk is surreptitiously cloned (notably China and Israel). So even if you delete documents, all that is deleted is the memory reference to them. They can be forensically reconstructed. The solution is that sensitive documents are never written to disk. They are copied to a USB stick, and edited on the stick. That way, temp edit files that are created when you open the document, are not written to the disk, but in the same directory on the USB stick. If the system doesn't clean them out (and they do stick around), they will not be on your cloned disk.

10) Your smart phone is your life. It is the repository of who you are. Giving up the password is opening the book on your life, your finances, your business, everything. If you are really concerned about this, the solution is to buy a cheap flip phone while travelling. Remove the SIM card from your smart phone, and put it in the cheap flip phone. You still have  conventional SMS texts, phone and a browser for you email, but you don't carry your own personal data repository around with you.

11) Never use free airport WIFI. Always use your 3G or 4G data in the airport. All of the intelligence agencies in the world listen in, (and so do I when I am bored).  I just fire up my network monitoring tools and watch the data go by.

12) Finally, if you are a bona fide company, or a High Net Worth Individual  looking for an enterprise or robust solution to the empty laptop, send me an email (substitute "-at-" with "@")     We have an enterprise, secure solution where the data is safely stored in a bunker in the Bahamas, and access is through a hardware key to your computer with intense SSH/SSL encryption and tunneling.  Be advised though that we do due diligence and KYC (Know Your Customer) because we want purely legitimate business with privacy concerns. Our usual customers are financial institutions and multi-national or international corporations operating from a G20 country.

The age of information really erodes personal privacy, but there can be technology solutions as well.

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