A Guide to Defending Privacy at U.S. Border

Take a look at the EFF’s latest article “Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices”

Account Passwords vs. Full Disk Encryption:

This distinction makes a major practical difference. Bypassing an account password is a routine operation that can be done automatically with forensic software that bypasses the operating system and looks directly at the disk, your account password is no obstacle for this forensic software. Fortunately, modern computer systems come with comparatively easy full-disk encryption tools that let you encrypt the contents of your hard drive with a passphrase that will be required when you start your computer. Using these tools is the most fundamental security precaution for computer users who have confidential information on their hard drives and are concerned about losing control over their computers — not just at a border crossing, but at any moment during a trip when a computer could be lost or stolen.

Simply deleting data from your hard drive with your normal OS file deletion features is not secure and the data is still present and recoverable on your hard drive. Just because deleted files are no longer visible in your operating system’s file manager does not mean that a forensic expert can’t undelete them or deduce that they were once present.

If a border agent asks you to provide an account password or encryption passphrase or to decrypt data stored on your device, you don’t have to comply. Only a judge can force you to reveal information to the government, and only to the extent that you do not have a valid Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

It’s extremely important that you do not tell a lie to a border agent. If you are absolutely sure that you don’t want to answer a specific question, it’s better to politely decline to answer than to give a false answer.

Be aware that border agents may search your camera, copy its contents, or try to undelete images or videos that you believe you’ve deleted and that are no longer visible from the camera’s user interface.

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