A new Bill has been introduced in Canada’s parliament regarding the examination of passengers’ digital devices, such as smartphones.
Examining a traveler’s personal digital devices, like cell phones and laptops, is critical to protecting borders and intercepting prohibited material like child pornography. These examinations are both extremely rare – affecting a mere 0.009 percent of all travelers entering Canada in 2021 – and highly effective, uncovering a contravention in 27 percent of all cases. As all examinations of personal digital devices must respect privacy rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Government of Canada is moving to create clear and stringent standards surrounding them.
Senator Marc Gold, Government Representative in the Senate, on behalf of Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, introduced the Bill in Parliament to strengthen the framework governing the examination of personal digital devices by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and United States Customs and Border Patrol preclearance officers operating in Canada.
The Bill will create standards that must be met before a traveler’s device can be examined. It proposes changes to the Customs Act and the Preclearance Act, 2016 that further protect the rights of travelers with respect to examinations of their personal digital devices, without compromising the ability to secure Canada’s borders.
The Bill proposes legislative changes that include:
- Establishing a new threshold that must be met before the initiation of a personal digital device examination, which requires reasonable general concern;
- Creating an authority to examine documents on personal digital devices in the Customs Act and the Preclearance Act, 2016. This is required to differentiate these devices from other goods, including commercially imported/exported digital devices; and,
- Requiring specific purpose that formally limits examinations to regulatory border-related examinations.
The Canadian government recognizes that personal digital devices can contain sensitive personal information, and will work to ensure that the privacy of Canadians and those wishing to visit the country is always protected. The government says it is committed to advancing the legislation expeditiously.