There have been many stories to come out of the US over the past couple of years that have related to law enforcement requests of personal passwords, and now, it looks like Canada wants to get in on the action.
This past week, traveler Alain Philippon was returning to the Great White North from the Dominican Republic, and upon his arrival, customs officers demanded that he give his smartphone's PIN code so that they could fish around. He refused, and now he faces a fine of $1,000 to $25,000 and one year in jail.
Philippon states that he didn't give up his PIN because it's personal information, and I agree -- I would have done the same thing. It's bad enough that our luggage has to be scanned and searched, but our smartphones have so much information on our lives, from email access to personal photos. To give access to that -- when you're not accused of anything -- is ridiculous, something that many around the web, since this story broke, seem to agree with.
Customs authorities say that searching people's smartphones is not standard procedure, but it's not against the rules. It's up to the officers themselves to deem the best action to take.
In the US, people could argue their Fifth Amendment rights when it comes to divulging passwords. That won't stop many from asking, though. We learned just a couple of months ago that a school district wants to demand social media passwords from accused bullies; so it's not just law enforcement that wants this sort of access.
We also covered an interesting twist to this rule in November, which saw a Virginia court deemed it suitable that a fingerprint not be treated like normal information. In that particular case, you could better protect yourself by locking a phone with both a fingerprint and pin code requirement.
Alain is set to appear in court on May 12, so it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out.