Canadian customs refuse to disclose laptop border search policy

Greg from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association sez,

It's not just the U.S. border guards who want to search the files on your laptop and cellphone. The Canada Border Services Agency has been doing the same thing for years. From U.S. journalist Amy Goodman to a Canadian gay couple whose collection of porn got border agents all hot and bothered, the CBSA likes to look just as much as its counterpart in the U.S.

The biggest difference between U.S. border guards and the CBSA is that the CBSA hasn't made their policy for laptop searches public. Judging by how they've handled the BC Civil Liberties Association's Access to Information request, they'd like to keep it that way.

Back in October 2009, the BCCLA filed an Access to Information Request with the CBSA looking for their policies on searching personal electronics and copying data from them. We got a polite acknowledgement, and we settled in to wait for the 30 days allowed by the Access to Information Act.

On November 30, 2009, we got another letter from the CBSA saying that they'd need another 60 days to meet the request, because a timely response would "unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution" and "consultations are necessary to comply with the request." We settled in to wait again.

February 1 came and went. Three months after the original request was filed, the CBSA remains unwilling or unable to provide a single document in response to our request.

We've written up an overview of the file and put the correspondence online. We'll be posting more about this over the next few weeks, and we'll be putting documents online as soon as we get them.

CBSA delays laptop search Access to Information request

(Thanks, Greg!)

(Image: Pacific Highway crossing, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from scazon's photostream)