How To Limit U.S. Border Control’s Phone Data Pillaging


Did you know the U.S. government can take data from your phone and store it up to 75 years? This isn’t a conspiracy theory. Really! Recently the U.S. Border Patrol released their Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). Their document describes the reasoning and methods by which they can take your data. The war against privacy continues. If this steams you as it does me, read on to learn how to limit U.S. Border Control’s phone data pillaging policy.

Don’t Mirror Me Bro

It’s a disturbing trend. Countries are increasingly collecting and storing visitor data. The reasoning is normally explained as vital to resident safety and national security. This includes biometrics too.

Are you skeptical regarding how the data will be used as well? It’s natural since it’s hard to completely trust governments.

What happens is if it’s determined the U.S. government needs your data when returning from a land far, far away? A border agent will collect your data by mirroring the device. Mirroring is essentially copying the data. Those files will then be added to a central database for at least 20 years.

Curious about what they can copy? Here’s the list:

  • Contacts
  • Call Logs/Details
  • IP Addresses used by the device
  • Calendar Events
  • GPS Locations used by the device
  • Emails
  • Social Media Information
  • Cell Site Information
  • Phone Numbers
  • Videos and Pictures
  • Account Information (User Names and Aliases)
  • Text/chat messages
  • Financial Accounts and Transactions
  • Location History
  • Browser bookmarks
  • Notes
  • Network Information
  • Tasks List.

Basically, they can know where you’ve been, whom you talk to, what you’ve written, what you plan to do and anything else they can scrape from your world.

If they’re hunting suspected terrorists, I can see why they want all this information. To thwart an attack. Got it. But, PIA gives a lot of wiggle room to collect from anyone without conclusive necessity.

How often are these searches conducted?

10,000 in 2016. And over 30,000 in 2017. Do we see a trend here? Yes, indeed we do.

Then if we are to surmise more searches are on the way, what can you do to keep the government’s grubby digits off your digital world?

Pack Lighter

Leave the phone at home. And you’ll get a dopamine detox too.

This option for some is a non-starter. It’s a bit extreme these days to go rogue and off the grid. And, smartphones have access to great information while on the go.

However, you probably don’t need all your devices for the journey. Bring only what you need.

Store In The Cloud

The more files you can keep off your phone the better. The less the government can find.

Such as instead of having an email app on your phone, consider logging in via the website instead. I know, it’s not as convenient. But they can’t collect what they can’t find.

Deep Cleaning

Remove as many files, apps, pictures, and links your phone has to cyberspace. For instance, you can uninstall your social media apps, then add them back once past customs.

It Takes Two To Tango

Get a separate phone only for travel and leave your primary phone at home. A travel phone will give you access to the destination information you need when you need it. Keep your personal information off the travel phone as much as possible. Then the government won’t be able to siphon much of the list above. Nice try Uncle Sam!

Wrap Up

Understand there’s a growing list of governments around the globe fixated on collecting as much data on you and from you as possible. If that’s a concern to you, then take steps to limit what they can get.

Read. Plan. Travel. Repeat!


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