Canada Border Services Agency says laptops are subject to routine search to ensure compliance with laws, and refusing to provide passwords can lead to confiscation. Personal information is to be protected.
Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says Canadian officials also exercise “completely discretionary and arbitrary” search powers.
“We think the challenge in the States may precipitate constitutional challenges in Canada as well,” she said.
Anne-Mare Hayden, spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, said while section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, Canadian courts have recognized there is a “diminished expectation of privacy” at border crossings.
As two court decisions have upheld the lawfulness of border searches of computers without warrant, she said Canadians concerned about searches should refrain from carrying confidential information on electronic devices when they travel across the border. Some employers such as law firms have asked staff to travel with a computer that contains little or no data, then access any information they need on the company’s servers via a secure virtual private network, Hayden said.
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