r/technology Sep 19 '22 Silver 2 Wholesome 1

US Customs, stores duplicates of travelers' phone and laptop contents — including medical records, photos, and calendar appointments — without much oversight, report says Security

https://www.businessinsider.com/us-customs-duplicates-phone-and-laptop-contents-of-travelers-wapo-2022-9
22.4k Upvotes

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u/KraljZ Sep 19 '22

Before I travel outside the country, I backup my phone in the event I need to wipe it to prevent this from happening

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u/SomDonkus Sep 19 '22

I’ve never once in my life left the country with my phone lol I have an iPhone that’s jacked up to all hell that I keep zero information on that I travel with. I just buy a month of prepaid service.

23

u/tyleritis Sep 19 '22

I traveled this way for 17 months with an iPhone 5s

234

u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

Surely it's too late to start wiping it if you get in this situation, you'd have to wipe it before even entering customs

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u/DarshUX Sep 19 '22

Also, crazy Americans talking about using burner phones when traveling. Sounds like we’re living in the Soviet Union ⚒️

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u/vtssge1968 Sep 19 '22

Patriot act? Or is this another law where we gave up all rights in the name of national security...

934

u/unknownusername10001 Sep 19 '22

NDAA similar to the patriot act but allows for more oversight with borders and spending for our militaries.

274

u/OculostenoticReflex Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22

Do you have to unlock your phone for them to copy the hard drive? Or can they do it without access?

259

u/browndog03 Sep 19 '22

Without it being unlocked it should be encrypted.

216

u/ManaSpike Sep 19 '22

Yeah, but they plug it into a black box that will try every known exploit (and maybe some unknown ones) to break in and dump the storage.

How old is your phone OS?

174

u/cogdiss420 Sep 19 '22

Cellebrite has existed for a long time. My buddy was super surprised after being detained by DHS that they had copies of every text message from his iPhone back in 2016.

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u/MisterCBax Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22 Silver

I purchased an EBay Cellebrite Touch 2 and reverse engineered it. It has all outdated exploits and can barely copy the contents of a phone on a good day. The software is buggy garbage.

The scariest feature is its ability to clone and modify SIM cards. With a cloned SIM they can maintain access to your cellular information. SIM cards run code called Javacard. They could install a Javacard application on the SIM that acts as a hardware level rootkit.

If you're travelling and you must go through a checkpoint. Make sure your phone is fully encrypted and SHUT DOWN, not locked, SHUT DOWN. Remove your SIM and keep it elsewhere. If they start asking where your SIM is do what you need to do if your privacy is worth that much to you. If your phone returns with a SIM in it and powered on, immediately shut the phone down without unlocking it (may have to hard power) and remove the SIM they installed, download your content and get a new phone. That is assuming you even get your phone back.

This is not my article, I am worried about writing an article and finding the legal team at my door. But you can read this: https://signal.org/blog/cellebrite-vulnerabilities/

Edit: as others have stated. When travelling internationally just take a cheapo burner. And if you need a laptop take the storage out of it and if you need that storage mail it ahead of time to your destination. Make sure its encrypted of course.

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u/FlintstoneTechnique Sep 19 '22

If they start asking where your SIM is

"I buy one when I land. It's cheaper than roaming charges."

33

u/Pitiful-Tune3337 Sep 19 '22

That won’t be a problem with the new iPhones, they don’t even have sim slots anymore

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u/neverlyjones Sep 19 '22

Could that make it more of a problem?

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u/aerostotle Sep 19 '22

at this point, why wouldn't you just leave your phone at home and cross the border with a burner?

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u/reverendsteveii Sep 19 '22

A lot of business folk backup to the cloud, wipe, cross the border then restore from the cloud backup at their destination

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[deleted]

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u/GearhedMG Sep 19 '22

Thats what I do.

  1. Back up phone before traveling (internationally).
  2. Use it to get on the plane (mobile ticket).
  3. Use it while on the plane.
  4. When pilot makes announcement, begin wipe sequence.
  5. Restore from cloud after through customs.
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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

Wtf. Is this a US thing, or can I expect this sort of stuff anywhere (in the near future)?

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u/SykeSwipe Sep 19 '22

At the very least I would expect the Five Eyes to share this kind of technology. So Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK too.

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u/Careless-Party-4615 Sep 19 '22

Oh good russia, China and North Korea are all safe /s

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u/cogdiss420 Sep 19 '22

Cellebrite is an Israeli company that deals with law enforcement around the world.

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u/d1smalnow Sep 19 '22

Cellebrite is scum.

They will sell their tech to the highest bidder, regardless.

UAE, Russia, Uganda, Turkey are among others. I would just assume this is an everywhere thing at this point.

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u/pixabit Sep 19 '22

I wonder if the eSIM shift by Apple helps prevent this… seems like it might.. haven’t fully looked into the tech though

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u/PunktualPenguin Sep 19 '22

Didn't the FBI run into trouble in 2016 when it tried to strong arm Apple into providing a backdoor to every phone it makes? I think Apple sued and won?

The FBI probably figured out a way around it, or got congress to pass some other law that forces them to comply?

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u/tomlaw Sep 19 '22

I think they got around it

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u/trashycollector Sep 19 '22 Wholesome

Yes, then Apple locked at least one way down by turning the lighting data port off if the phone was locked for so long.

This was after some figured out that you could clone the encrypted phone drive and try to brute force the password using a bunch of “cloned phones”. Shortly after there was a bunch of companies offering this to police departments. Then Apple blocked this tactic and the companies went away with a ton of money because they had police paying up front and a large subscription cost to unlock phones.

I am sure the government has other ways but they can use that information in trials or they have to disclose how they got the information.

34

u/enjoytheshow Sep 19 '22

the companies went away with a ton of money because they had police paying up front and a large subscription cost to unlock phones.

Taxpayer money HARD at work for our local police departments to checks notes crack into criminals phones to chase down small time drug dealers or some shit.

74

u/Muscled_Daddy Sep 19 '22

iirc, didn’t the fbi eventually say ‘never mind. We don’t need you.’

30

u/TaxExempt Sep 19 '22

Iirc, a private company got in for them.

50

u/PopWhatMagnitude Sep 19 '22

That's what they claimed at least.

For them it was just an ideal case to try to get Apple to publicly set legal precedence for providing access.

Not an Apple fanboy by any means, but props to them for standing their ground on that.

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22

The fbi always had the technology to do it, I just think they were trying to gain legal standing to do it.

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u/mixreality Sep 19 '22

It was really clever and low tech, the company they hired cloned the phone, spun up thousands of copies and brute forced the old fashioned way.

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u/maleia Sep 19 '22

Considering the monumental amount of resources to accomplish something like PRISM, I make no assumptions about what the US government can't do. If the US government wants the data in your phone, they WILL get it.

Maybe they just grab some bare identifying information, your phone's IMEI number, a serial number. Maybe just sneak a root kit, and syphon off your data throughout the day. Blah blah blah can't rootkit, encrypted, Apple Caves. The agency capable of saving petabytes of internet metadata every second and storing it for 5+ years, definitely has the power to get past an Apple or Android'e comparably shit security.

PRISM is something we KNOW, and it's still mind boggling to me that it's possible. They can get into your phone

50

u/clickwir Sep 19 '22

We should have laws protecting privacy

114

u/anaximander19 Sep 19 '22

To be fair, whole chunks of what was being done under PRISM actually was illegal. Hence the whole whistleblowing thing. These laws exist, they just don't care. For a start, they can't be prosecuted if nobody knows they're doing it - and as we've seen, perhaps not even then...

20

u/inbooth Sep 19 '22

also, they've passed laws indemnifying themselves from any crime they commit as part of the gig....

17

u/anaximander19 Sep 19 '22

Because a government that passes a law saying they're allowed to break their own laws sounds suuuper trustworthy.

34

u/saxGirl69 Sep 19 '22

Laws don’t stop these people.

14

u/ItWasTheGiraffe Sep 19 '22

The laws, pretty widely, don’t apply at the border

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u/charmstrong70 Sep 19 '22

As far as I'm aware, you need to unlock the phone.

The problem for international travellers, refuse and your not getting into the country.

It's like the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), it asks for your Linkedin/FB/Insta/Twitter and says "optional". I guess it's optional if your approved or not.

15

u/pikapichupi Sep 19 '22

how does "I don't have one" work, like not everyone has a FB/insta, I deleted mine years ago

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u/Efficiency_79 Sep 19 '22

You go straight to the terrorist list. All normal citizens have one.

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u/TheCockAndWomble Sep 19 '22

I got in the US fine without filling those in. Nobody took my phone or laptop.

Maybe they use the same ‘random selection’ (racial profiling) for that as well.

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u/m0n3ym4n Sep 19 '22

Something something terrorists something trafficking something Prevention Act of 20XX

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u/orielbean Sep 19 '22

Border control has almost always had a severe lack of protection for citizens and no citizens. The courts agree with that almost always.

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u/caribou16 Sep 19 '22

Yeah and the government defines 100 miles within from a border as a reasonable distance. International airports count as a border, in this context.

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u/Dolphintorpedo Sep 19 '22

So everywhere

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u/joe_beardon Sep 19 '22

Yeah like 95% of the us population lives 100 miles from the border

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u/MontanaHikingResearc Sep 19 '22

All of government has that view.

The last person to hand back government authority was Cinncinnatus, and he wasn’t a politician.

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u/Staav Sep 19 '22

Crazy how often avoidable but mishandled tragedies happen to the most powerful civ in human history, that allow those in power to flex and increase their already excessive power over the rest of the population giving those in power even more power. "Power" and "money" are interchangeable bc that's how modern civ works. If u ppl can't see the trends directly caused by the puppet masters in our country resulting in them gaining more power, then idk where you've been at, other Amuricans.

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u/Rufus_Reddit Sep 19 '22

This is one of the ones where SCOTUS decided that you don't have rights.

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u/RRettig Sep 19 '22

"Gave up" would imply we chose this, they were taken from is

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u/Projectrage Sep 19 '22

They also have stingrays. Which can pick up cell use.

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u/spucci Sep 19 '22

International travelers whom had their property seized.

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u/Airie Sep 19 '22

They have jurisdiction over, and operate, anywhere within 100mi of an international border, airport, or waterway.

This impacts far more people than any of us would like to admit

50

u/LaserGuidedPolarBear Sep 19 '22

2/3 of the US population live in the "lol just kidding about that 4th amendment " border zone.

86

u/gngstrMNKY Sep 19 '22

The entirety of Hawaii, Florida, and several states on the NE seaboard are all part of the constitution free zone.

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u/AlwaysSunnyInSeattle Sep 19 '22

This sounds like some wacky sovereign citizen bullshit except it’s real and I hate it.

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u/dingo-dick Sep 19 '22

66% I live on the boarder in AZ. I have to pass through a checkpoint frequently. Their dogs are way more important to them than you.

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u/happyevil Sep 19 '22

Not even seized, if they pull you aside to search they'll make copies of things too.

Last time I flew International I took a blank phone and laptop. I re-set them up from remote backups when I arrived and wiped them again before I left.

Border police from pretty much every country is a data security nightmare. The US used to be better but too many laws and court cases have pretty much given them free reign over anything they look at.

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u/PairOfMonocles2 Sep 19 '22

Yup, anyone from our company that travels internationally has IT issue them a blank laptop with VPN to connect to a limited access VM.

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u/SeismicFrog Sep 19 '22

That’s good data security, it warms my heart when IT organizations do things right. Now if someone would just clean up the damned CMDB.

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u/neoplastic_pleonasm Sep 19 '22

I work for the gubbermint and if we travel internationally we're issued blank devices and just connect to a virtual desktop over a VPN while abroad.

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u/A_Doormat Sep 19 '22

My colleague did this and the first thing the agent did was ask him why he was using a blank phone and what he was trying to hide.

They aren’t stupid, they’ll notice you wiped your phone. Which is extremely suspicious to them. Luckily he didn’t wipe his laptop. They made him power it on, go to the desktop and click around, navigate to websites, prove that it’s a functional computer. They saw he had legit work data on there so they kinda calmed them down.

He got worked over big time because of the phone though. This was coming back into our own country. So they couldn’t outright deny him entry but they certainly made it a nightmare. He said fuck that, if they want a copy of his dick pics and the 1600 other photos of receipts or other stupid inane shit, they can have them.

I basically just uninstall my social media apps and certain private things and leave the rest so it looks like a clearly used phone with clear up to date time stamps and all that. Then restore from cloud my sensitive apps.

I love having to hide my own personal shit on my own personal devices because I make the mistake of needing to travel. You can refuse to give them passwords if you want, they just take your device and you basically never see it again. Legally backed civil forfeiture based on nothing but the mood of the agent.

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u/Rob_T_Firefly Sep 19 '22

The easy response to this is "I took my personal stuff off because I'm nervous about traveling, I heard [country] is full of muggers and pickpockets and I don't want foreign thieves to steal my identity."

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u/A_Doormat Sep 19 '22

Unfortunately we were traveling between US and Canada hahaha wouldn’t be believable. But that’s a good reason in other situations.

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u/happyevil Sep 19 '22

I really don't care if they give me crap. Phones are gateways to way too much data even with a couple apps deleted. I'm not thinking they're stupid, I'm thinking my data is worth more than the way border security will treat it. Certificates for my VPNs, passwords, financial data, family photos, etc. Frankly this isn't even about telling the government, they'll know some of this stuff anyway, it's who else ends up with the data; they've already been caught in multiple data breaches.

I'm a thoroughly background checked government contractor. I've written software they use. As a result I also know how incompetent the operators at these crossings are with technology regardless of whether they can identify a blank phone. I'll happily wait while they do what they must. If I need to wait longer that's fine. I already inconvenience myself for other security purposes.

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u/Girlindaytona Sep 19 '22

I never carry a laptop or my regular phone out of the country. I carry an old phone with just minimal contacts for the job I’m on and basic email. I also carry an iPad with just the documents I need for that trip. I forward calls to that phone from my regular phone. Nothing good can come from Customs possessing my data and I guarantee that their server is not secured adequately to prevent identity theft.

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u/sassergaf Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 20 '22

This is a good strategy. It means purchasing two more devices and another phone line.

Someone suggested creating another account for the apple/android device and wiping the phone. But it didn’t deal with the laptop.

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u/SharingIsCaring323 Sep 19 '22

Just burner electronics all the way.

Some people can’t afford privacy. It’s a bit sad.

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u/docweird Sep 19 '22

The reason why our uni recommends that you travel with emptied phones and laptops. Then restore them from cloud backups after customs.

This kind of shit is not only immoral, it’s dangerous - to catch 1 potential criminal or terrorist you have to violate the privacy of million.

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u/qazwsxedc000999 Sep 19 '22

And usually never catch the criminal anyway

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u/djames843 Sep 19 '22

Not to blow your mind or anything but guess what….

The criminals/terrorist thing is just an excuse to harvest the data of millions. That’s what they care about. they know fine well that mass collection of data doesn’t help catch terrorists and any terrorist with half a brain will be trained to circumvent the measures. they know this.

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[deleted]

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u/that_guy_you_kno Sep 19 '22

Hmm. How would one go about doing this?

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u/youreadusernamestoo Sep 19 '22

Make an encrypted back-up of your phone to a MicroSD card in system settings. Remove the MicroSD card. Restore factory settings. Send the MicroSD card to your destination in a sealed envelope. At your destination, insert the MicroSD card, recover from back-up. Don't use American cloud services to store personal data.

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u/savvymcsavvington Sep 19 '22

Too risky sending such info in the post, it can get lost or stolen. Better to shove it up your butt and smuggle that way.

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u/wdlp Sep 19 '22

That's the first place they'll look you fool!

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u/GetOutOfTheWhey Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22

Every time I fill out my ESTA, they ask for my social media accounts. I always leave it blank.

In the near future I fear if left blank, they might start using it as a "red flag" for them to do a random phone check.

Edit: I havent visited the US recently, holy shit, the social media field is now mandatory?

Until 2020, social media information in ESTA applications was optional. This information is required, and candidates must submit information about their social media accounts on the ESTA application form. If the tourist has used Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram in the previous five years, they must give their social network IDs.

https://estatousa.com/esta-social-media-question/

FML future is now

508

u/Tannerleaf Sep 19 '22

Burner phone when travelling.

Of course, that’s what terrorists do, which might lead to even more intense arsehole spelunking by the tubby fellas :-(

135

u/Journier Sep 19 '22

Who do you work for! Who do you work for!

123

u/TheSecretAstronaut Sep 19 '22

Who, does, number, two, work for?!

23

u/Hallowed_Grave Sep 19 '22

Yeah, that’s it! You show that turd who’s boss!!!

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u/MandoAviator Sep 19 '22

You show that turd who’s boss!

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u/neoplastic_pleonasm Sep 19 '22

I work for a government agency and we're required to do this when traveling internationally. We're not even a particularly interesting agency espionage-wise and I don't even have a security clearance.

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u/dirtyuncleron69 Sep 19 '22

Most major companies do now. Most defense contractors and all of the major auto OEMs do this.

158

u/VagueSomething Sep 19 '22

This is what European governments recommend. Do not ever take your real phone or laptop to the USA.

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u/Yadobler Sep 19 '22

Man, remember when this is advice for going to China?

China and US aren't opposites but like, conjugates. Both pointing right but one up one down

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u/Financial_Accident71 Sep 19 '22

even for US citizens. I got detained in Miami and they made me give them this info, so as soon as I got to my car I changed my instagram handle to make it less convenient for them to find me XD

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u/Big-Shtick Sep 19 '22

@customscaneatmydick

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u/cryptOwOcurrency Sep 19 '22

If they detain you for an unreasonable amount of time while coming in to the US through customs as a citizen, you can sue. You don't have to give them jack. It's a protected right to enter the US as a citizen.

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u/Just_Another_Wookie Sep 19 '22

There's technically and legally correct, and then there's going up against the Federal Government and getting a Federal judge to concur with your interpretation of what's technically and legally correct. I'm not saying that you're wrong, but I am saying, "good luck!”

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u/sunflowercompass Sep 19 '22

ICE has detained actual citizens for 3.5 years...Davino Watson

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/Redtwooo Sep 19 '22

"When you said 'blood for the blood god', what did you mean by that?"

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u/97875 Sep 19 '22

When you said "I need those Trump nuclear documents for uncle Ahmed's glorious work" to whom were you referring?

21

u/PlusThePlatipus Sep 19 '22

"Do you really store potatoes in your anus?"

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u/lurkylurkers Sep 19 '22

When you said “it’s all the Queen’s land”, to which land were you referring?

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u/haltingpoint Sep 19 '22

It really is open to interpretation. That's why Khorne is such a progressive God. Convert today!

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u/videah Sep 19 '22

It was made mandatory for a little while but I believe lawsuits were filed and it’s no longer the case. I did not have to enter it for my latest ESTA.

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u/OSUBrit Sep 19 '22

Filled in an ESTA like 3 weeks ago, it was optional.

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u/Drewelite Sep 19 '22

Honest question: How can they make you? I'd just say I don't have one. Then if they pull me up on Facebook I'll just say it's not mine, someone is catfishing as me.

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u/SnooBananas4958 Sep 19 '22

Sure but the OP is saying that the whole problem with not giving your info is the fear you’ll be further scrutinized which is what’s happening in your example

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u/ionstorm66 Sep 19 '22

They then seize all your electronics and look for evidence. Then arrest you when they find any.

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u/wedontlikespaces Sep 19 '22

What if I don't have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter? Because I don't.

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u/Spysnakez Sep 19 '22

Straight to a black site with that level of terrorism. You must have a social media account! Who doesn't!?

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u/onenifty Sep 19 '22

The trick is to have a burner phone, laptop, and tons of social media accounts, ALL of them filled with mountains of giant dick pics. Like literally thousands of them, some of them with text overlaid on them that hint that you're leaving messages or communicating through the captions. And don't use a normal font so OCR can't translate them. They'll have to read every single one of them.

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u/Seifersythe Sep 19 '22

"Give me your phone."

"You refuse? You can't cross the border."

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u/Drewelite Sep 19 '22

Apparently I can decline? https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/09/18/phone-data-privacy-customs/

I'm a US citizen. Not sure if other countries are doing this sort of thing...

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u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

These clever strategies aren't what you want because as soon as they have a reason to doubt you they'll use the full process and start digging.

You want to be as open as possible without giving them your private info so they don't have any reason to escalate.

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u/PlasticDreamz Sep 19 '22

They act like its required to have social media 🙄

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u/HaElfParagon Sep 19 '22

I mean just put "N/A" for not applicable. Just because you HAVE to put something in the field, doesn't mean you have to put information in there.

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u/Alaira314 Sep 19 '22

Someone needs to blow this system up by unleashing a granny into it.

"Oh dear, my granddaughter set it up for me. Try "Facebook." Well, that's what it's called! My name? I'm Edith Smithers. Well that's my name, it's what it says on the Facebook! My user name? You'll have to explain this to me, dear. Oh, what I type to log in. JohnKennedy, he was such a sweetheart! Oh, and 1934 on the end. Yes, I'm sure that's my user name. My granddaughter said to pick something I could remember, and I'm never going to forget that man. Oh, my password? What's the difference? Hun, you're gonna have to speak up..."

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u/thesmithtopher Sep 19 '22

There’ll be a wave of grannie terrorists bringing bombs into the country disguised as home baked goods

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u/tredrano Sep 19 '22

So proactively create & abandon a twitter acct "@fck_esta" or some such?

Seriously, can one create & abandon an acct on any major SM just to have something to add? Are there any penalties for not supplying complete info?

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u/NexusTR Sep 19 '22

Just give them someone like @TheOmniLiberal or @MiloYiannopoulos

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u/The_Clarence Sep 19 '22

within 5 years.

Folks, the best time to drop social media was yesterday. Second best time is today. And yes, I know I'm posting this on a social media

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u/BobVosh Sep 19 '22

Sounds like the best time was 5 years ago.

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u/AncientBellybutton Sep 19 '22

I wonder how much child pornography they unknowingly possess by scanning the data on teenagers' phones...

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[deleted]

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u/Genghis_Tr0n187 Sep 19 '22

It's called freedom.

/s

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u/PlusThePlatipus Sep 19 '22

It just doesn't mention whose freedom.

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u/paternoster Sep 19 '22

Seems like the best way to go is to make sure you have a cloud backup, then reset your phone for the flight.

Only restoring from the backup once you've reached your destination.

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u/crispychoc Sep 19 '22

This is the way, wipe and restore.

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u/enn-srsbusiness Sep 19 '22

Second only to the Epstein estate, US Customs has the largest commercial collection of child porn.

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u/Opiewan76 Sep 19 '22

How are they getting these??? I have never once been asked to even show anyone a phone or anything on it.

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[deleted]

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u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

Thanks for sharing. This right here is the main issue.

A lot of people don't expect to be affected by this, since they won't fit the description of someone who might look suspicious. But the fact is this can happen to anyone like some lottery.

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u/FlutterKree Sep 19 '22

If you are a US citizen, you can refuse to unlock your phone. They can't deny you entry or punish you over it. It just pisses them off and delays the entry, but doesn't stop it.

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u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

Yes but they can still take the device and detain for a while.

There are also many other countries with same access so it's an issue for US citizens travelling to many overseas countries and also for any mon-us citizen entering the US

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u/IMtehUber1337 Sep 19 '22

Should also remove fingerprint/face unlock. I would never unlock my phone. Pretty sure the 4th amendment still applies. What are they gonna do, send me back to the country I was visiting?

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u/FlutterKree Sep 19 '22

They can't charge you for not unlocking it, as that would violate the 5th and 4th amendments. They can't seize the device either, at least not indefinitely.

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u/KetchupIsABeverage Sep 19 '22

In this case, what would be the legal definition of “not indefinitely”? A year? 5? 50?

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u/FlutterKree Sep 19 '22

The US is also not the only country with this policy. Canada and New Zealand also have phone unlock policies.

Also they will take the device, but not forever.

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u/TopNFalvors Sep 19 '22

I had same thing happen to me with a few differences. They sat me down in a $5 Walmart chair while 2 officers stood over me dicks too close. Told me to take my case off my phone, remove any passwords and disable screen lock. I did all that. They searched the phone case with a magnet like thing? Spent 15 fucking minutes going through my life on my phone, all while standing over me. They then chaotically searched through my carry on taking random shit out and not putting anything back. Then on to my MacBook…same bs. They then said I was free to go. I felt totally violated.

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u/Dividedthought Sep 19 '22

They tried to do this to me at the border about... 8 years ago here and I just said no. I' sure things have changed but I just stuck to "no thank you. I don't care if you tell me to turn around, i've got nothing to hide, but you have zero reason to want to go through that laptop. You just picked me because I looked like I wouldn't argue."

I guess that made me more trouble than it was worth that day because they let me in. I wouldn't expect to get away with that today.

The kicker: both my laptop and phone may as well have been from the factory. They were both new and I knew I'd be travelling so I didn't put anything on em.

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u/Sephr Sep 19 '22

What do you mean when you say that they "forced" you to input your password?

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u/[deleted] Sep 19 '22

[deleted]

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u/addressunknown Sep 19 '22

Jesus. Did they say what charges would be pressed if you were arrested?

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u/SheeshSheathedSheth Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22

None. Police are legally allowed to lie. They are lying, you wouldn't be arrested*. Know your rights.

*legally speaking, they might make up some bullshit just to fuck with you, but if you know your rights you will likely be able to beat it, albeit with some inconvenience.

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u/LetsBet Sep 19 '22

Police are not even required to fully understand the laws they are enforcing because it has been determined that statutes and codes change so often that it is not reasonable for your average patrol officer to have a full understanding. So they can lie or even be willfully ignorant to the law but that will not change the fact that you will still be arrested on scene. And if you cause a stink you can bet they will look to tack on any extra charge they can find even if the original (and possibly false) charge doesn't stick. At that point it comes down to how much you are willing to fork for legal fees to push the issue. It's a game the departments and agencies know how to play a lot better than your average citizen being detained on the spot.

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u/SheeshSheathedSheth Sep 19 '22

Yeah that's fair, I guess I should have said you 'shouldn't' be arrested. But you're right, any police officer can arrest anyone for any reason, even if it's not a real reason. Still, if you DO know your rights, you will most likely be able to call their bluff. And there's always a (slim) chance you can sue and at least get rewarded with some taxpayer money for their fuckup.

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u/A_Doormat Sep 19 '22

Oh that’s easy. They’ll come up with one afterwards. Or just release you in a few days once they’re done with your stuff.

You’re more than free to try and sue border control for mistreatment but you might be hard pressed finding a lawyer who wants to take on that fun challenge.

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u/Financial_Accident71 Sep 19 '22

well you can't enter the country until you give them access. So that's how they force you.

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u/Sarcasticalwit2 Sep 19 '22

Interesting. You're an American citizen returing to America. I wonder if that's actually legal or something that you just take their word for? I think you'd want that in writing along with a notice that you were coerced into compliance under threat of banishment.

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u/DigNitty Sep 19 '22

You have a Lot less rights at the border than you do inside.

This topic has come up fairly often since it is maddening. Border patrol can insist you input your phone code while regular police cannot.

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u/FlutterKree Sep 19 '22

They can insist and you can say no. They legally cannot deny you entry. They will get pissy and threaten you and try to scare you into it, delay the entry, but they can't punish or deny you entry.

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u/microActive Sep 19 '22

Can anyone familiar with US customs law verify this? This sounds illegal as fuck for a US citizen. I know they have the authority to go through your bags, but your phone data too?

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u/wisdom_possibly Sep 19 '22

Imagine the government just searches random people's houses every day. That's what this is like.

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u/Chahk Sep 19 '22

What would happen if you had quietly factory reset your phone while you were being led to the aforementioned large room?

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u/HaElfParagon Sep 19 '22

Then I guess you'd let them search your blank phone lol. It feels like it would be alot easier to just get a burner phone when you travel.

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u/Newer_Wave Sep 19 '22

Think it’s only people who’ve had their stuff seized…mostly international

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u/_murb Sep 19 '22

I lived abroad for 3 years and came back a few weeks ago, nothing more than a welcome back. Prior to that I was in and out every month for 15 years, again nothing more than a welcome back (even to hostile countries - China, Venezuela, etc).

Genuinely curious as to whom this targets: non citizens, previously entered countries if they were already flagged for something, or something else.

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u/sandbandhan Sep 19 '22

They target you for pretty much anything they want:

You look middle eastern: randomly selected for search

Short trip: Suspicious travel pattern

Trip to any non-wealthy country: Drug-source country

Showing any form of emotion: you look nervous, please come for bag search

non-US person under 40: Suspicion you are trying to work illegally in the country

good-looking woman: randomly selected for search

Who they normally leave alone: middle-aged bald white guys

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u/courageous_liquid Sep 19 '22

From the time I was 17 until I was 22, I was 'randomly selected' for searches on 13 consecutive flights. Weirdly the only time I didn't get extra searching was coming back from Tegucigalpa, which was by far the most likely place I'd imagine that would happen.

I just look italian and my name is a normal italian name. Prior to my dad's hair going grey, he'd be 'selected' all of the time too and this was before 9/11.

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u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

Seems to be heavily skewed to single travellers too regardless of the other factors. Bullies picking on people isolated without anyone in their corner.

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u/Faust29A Sep 19 '22

Next time when I fly to USA, I will bring my nokia 3310.

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u/The_Qu_ Sep 19 '22

No weapons allowed on flight.

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u/LostMyKarmaElSegundo Sep 19 '22

TSA will sieze it because, if you tie a string around it, it becomes a deadly weapon!

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u/Blaugrana_al_vent Sep 19 '22

Um, yeah. I'm an airline crew member and I pay for a separate cell phone that i take with me when I fly international (leaving my personal phone at home).

The work phone has no personal info in it, and has a separate Google account that i never use.

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u/Meatwad650 Sep 19 '22

I refused. They says I’d have phone back in “a few days”. I said it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t ever touch that phone again. I had to assume they’d install spyware on if like the Chinese government. Repeatedly comparing them to the Chinese government made them mad.

Logged in to iCloud from a friend’s iPad while still in the airport and did all the lost/stolen things in case they turned it back on. Then drive to the store on the way home and got a new one.

An expensive but satisfying FUCK YOU to the fascist dipshits at DHS.

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u/dingo-dick Sep 19 '22

Please please please go to the ACLU>constitutional free zone. I have said on here every time I see this information exposed. 100 mile in to the Continental US lies an imaginary line. Within that zone all of this is true. You can also be detained for no probable cause and can’t even make a phone call if they say so. Read it and weep.

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u/luckytaquito Sep 19 '22

Pretty sure the arbitrary 100 miles thing from that memo applies to international airports as well, so there’s pretty much nowhere they can’t do this.

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u/tangledwire Sep 19 '22

And also the coastlines, so anyone within 100 miles of the ocean qualifies…

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u/summonsays Sep 19 '22

I saw a map of this one time. It's like 95% of the US.

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u/Rad_Dad_Golfin Sep 19 '22

Tf they need with that info?

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u/BecomeMaguka Sep 19 '22

Its an almost 100% certainty that every single human being is guilty of some minor crime, and randomly sampling the population allows them to dig through your history for something to charge you with. Supposedly this cuts down on terrorists traveling across borders, but its really just security theater and a means to tax/charge citizens for stupid arbitrary laws/crimes.

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u/VirginiaIsForSnipers Sep 19 '22 edited Sep 19 '22

encrypt everything you own. back it up before travel.

some older androids have a thing where you can have it wipe the phone if you hit the power button 10 times.

prepare to say fuck off to customs and your hardware.

EDIT: looks like power button wipe isn't a feature on newer samsung androids..

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u/hoyfkd Sep 19 '22

Don’t forget that 80% of the country lives within one hundred miles of a border (including oceans), and so they can stop you and do this without a warrant or reasonable suspicion any time, any place.

Ah, freedumb.

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u/Strict_Strategy Sep 19 '22

So just like China. Fuck them both.

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u/moeburn Sep 19 '22

Yeah I've sworn off America as a tourist destination for years because of the behaviour at the border.

It's a shame because there's some beautiful geography there I'd love to see some day. But not if it means giving some random creep full unfettered access to my laptop, phone, and all my social media accounts. Not worth it, plenty of other nice places in the world to see.

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u/dannova23 Sep 19 '22

Leave your phone or any other electronic device at home and bring a burner phone

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u/einsibongo Sep 19 '22

O get the feeling this is never going back technologically so can we change laws and societies so that this doesn't matter?

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u/generalT Sep 19 '22

jfc, so we need burner phones to travel abroad now?

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u/techsavior Sep 19 '22

US Border Patrol agents (at least on the Canadian border) have the worst power trips in existence! Canada’s border agents are gods compared to the US!

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u/ShenmeNamaeSollich Sep 19 '22

Not sure why this is suddenly news - it’s been happening for a decade at least. Cases exactly like it w/confiscated laptops & phones are why SCOTUS already gutted the 4th amendment & why CBP can steal your shit 100mi from the border. Yeah, of course it’s happening more - we fucking let it.

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u/BobsBurger1 Sep 19 '22

Either way the more attention it gets the better to eventually reverse some of these ridiculous powers DHS has

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u/Pulsecode9 Sep 19 '22

Was standard practice at my old employer to wipe any asset before taking it across the US border. Has been for years.

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u/GreenEuro20 Sep 19 '22

Give a inch they’ll take a mile

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u/A-Good-Weather-Man Sep 19 '22

Ten bucks says they’re checking for pregnancy signs

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u/BraidRuner Sep 19 '22

In 2006 I was travelling to the USA through Texas as first point of call. I removed my hard drive and replaced it with a new one and a fresh O.S. sure enough I received the secondary screening, swabs, body scan and phone and computer examined. They got nothing. I was ready for them then and I endeavor to remain ready for them now should I ever need to travel there again. These are the times we live in.

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u/Selemaer Sep 19 '22

This is why my phone is encrypted with a 32 char boot password. I go through TSA with my phone shut off.

Nothing to hide but I won't have them thinking they can just do this type of shit.

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u/Strong-Estate-4013 Sep 19 '22

They can force you to unlock it and they can confiscate it for as long as they want just not “forever” and they can always use software to crack the password

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u/Selemaer Sep 19 '22

They can only force you to unlock bio locks with your finger / face. They cant force you to turn over actual passwords without a warrant.

As for software cracking the password. I think it's currently at 36 characters and not actual words but easy for me to remember. Entropy dictates that the sun would burn out before they got close to cracking it. The phone also has a 30 attempt then wipe security..so yeah.

4th and 5th amendment can both apply for reasons not turning over the password. At that point just get a new phone and go about life. They can piss and moan all they want.

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u/chickenstalker Sep 19 '22

When travelling into shithole countries, carry a cheapo blank phone. Install the common apps a to make it look legit. Get a simcard when you arrive. Same with laptops. Bring along your old laptop that has been factory reset. Upload your important files to the cloud or hide them in camera SD cards.

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u/summonsays Sep 19 '22

There's a lot of comments saying to wipe your phone and then restore it after. As an IT professional you have to be really careful about HOW you wipe it.

Most apps and OS's are probably going to just reformat the storage space. This does not remove the data. It's like ripping the index out of a book. You can still look through the pages and find the data. You need to either fill up the storage after the wipe. OR make sure you do a secure wipe that erases the data as it goes. (If it takes less than 5 minutes to wipe the drive it's not a secure wipe. The more storage space you have the longer it takes.)

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u/cntmpltvno Sep 19 '22

They CANNOT force you to unlock it if you are a U.S. citizen. If it has biometrics they can make you use your thumb or face to unlock it, but the way around that is just disable biometrics before going through customs. They lost the court case that would have allowed them to make you unlock your personal devices. The MOST they can do is confiscate the phone for a few days or weeks, and depending on the phone, they most likely won’t be able to crack it (remember the whole ordeal with the U.S. government trying to force Apple to build a back door into iOS so they could get into a terrorist’s iPhone, and how they failed to get Apple to comply?)

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u/AnalCommander99 Sep 19 '22

Fun fact, major tech companies store duplicates of your personal data including medical records, photos, and calendar invites without much oversight.

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u/FirstTarget8418 Sep 19 '22

This is why my former employer always ordered us to factory reset phones when traveling and later restore a backup from a trusted internet connection after crossing the border.

Hell we carried eachothers equipment on different planes so our fingerprints wouldn't unlock the encryption on our devices.

And we were foreign USGOV subcontractors. The US government was paranoid about the US government accessing confidential information about the US government.

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u/LeadPrevenger Sep 19 '22

Cyber security is crappy for most of america

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u/Happy-Campaign5586 Sep 19 '22

I really appreciate that the gov’t backs up all of my data. It is so frustrating when I lose my info. Now, I can just call US Customs. Thank you for being so thoughtful 🤮