No need for new law on border searches of smartphones, computers: feds

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OTTAWA — The federal public safety minister is rejecting a call from MPs to spell out explicitly in law when and how border agents can search travellers’ smartphones and other electronic devices at the border.

Under current policy, Canada Border Services Agency officers cannot routinely examine devices and there must be a number of indicators a search would turn up evidence of illegal activities before they proceed.

In a December report, the House of Commons committee on information, privacy and ethics recommended that the border agency’s guidelines for examination of digital devices be written into the Customs Act.

The committee also recommended the threshold to trigger a search be defined in law as “reasonable grounds to suspect” a crime or customs infraction.

In a letter this week to the committee, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says writing further conditions into the Customs Act could hinder the border agency’s ability to respond to emerging threats and law-breakers.

In addition, Goodale says internal policy, training and oversight will continue to help ensure border officers respect travellers’ privacy.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

The Canadian Press