'Digital strip search'

OpenMedia r1

Hi Paov,

From personal photos to call history, private messages, documents and more, our phones and laptops have some of our most personal, sensitive information on them.

And... yet Canada’s border agents are free to look through the personal information on your phone and laptop with barely any limitation, simply because the laws that govern these searches have not kept up with modern-day technology.

This means that most courts interpret our legislation to mean that customs agents can search your devices without suspicion for example, looking through emails, texts, and photos and that it’s an offence to refuse to cooperate, including the possibility of arrest for refusing to disclose passwords.1

These laws are in desperate need of a refresh for the digital age. Can you add your name to this call for action?


The laws covering searches at the border come from a time when searches were mostly limited to physical objects that would fit in a suitcase.

But now, most of us travel with tiny devices that are capable of storing thousands of images, messages and files, which can reveal incredible amounts of personal information about us.

It’s time for our government to recognize that digital devices require special laws, and stop treating them like a bag of t-shirts.

There’s a worrying global trend of governments using borders, where expectations and laws around privacy are lower, to conduct ‘digital strip searches’ that would never be acceptable in any other situation.

We need to set Canada on the right path let’s make sure we can turn this around, before it’s too late.


Most people in Canada don’t know much about these laws2, which is a big part of why our government has not felt any pressure to do anything about it.

Despite strong concerns from privacy experts and a direct recommendation from Canada’s ethics committee3, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has so far rejected any attempts to modernize these laws.

It’s up to us to turn this around and make that pressure felt. Please add your name and make it happen!


Thanks for everything you do,

Victoria with OpenMedia

PS Sending a strong message with thousands of signatures is just one of the many steps we’ll be taking to change these laws. We’ll also be spreading the word through a huge campaign of billboards at borders and airports, to make sure people know their rights and how to fight for them. You can donate to make that happen here.

[1] Crossing the border this summer? Know that guards can search your electronic devices:
[2] Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights at the Border:
[3] Protecting Canadians’ privacy at the U.S. Border:
Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics


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