At a time when travelers on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border are gearing up for summer vacation, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner has opened an investigation in response to a complaint regarding the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) practice of searching the electronic devices of travelers at the Canadian border. Though such searches are permitted without a warrant under the Canada Customs Act, CBSA policy states such searches should not be conducted as a matter of routine. 

Concerns also continue to mount with respect to the activities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, including concerns that these officers are not only demanding the passwords for travelers’ electronic devices and searching said devices, but copying the contents for further inspection. 

Though Canadian courts have acknowledged for some time that there are reduced expectations of privacy at border points, the increased frequency and depth of electronic device inspections, particularly from U.S. border officers, is concerning from a privacy perspective, especially for those individuals who may have confidential information on their work devices. We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this area.