The actions of the US Courts shows a support of privacy rights at border crossings. That is, US Border Patrol Officers need to have suspicion and a warrant before being able to search an individual's cell phone.
This is quite different than Canada's Border Services Agency's view on the issue and the treatment of cell phones as a good that can be searched under the Customs Act. In 2017, the Parliamentary ETHI Committee studied various issues with respect to security at border crossings and airports, including this issue of privacy and access to cell phone. The ETHI Committee recommended changes to the law that requires "reasonable grounds to suspect" before examining electronic devices at the border.
However, the Government of Canada's response to the report is that the laws are fine and internal policies and training of the Border Services Agency must be reflective of privacy issues. But is that enough to ensure the privacy rights of Canadians are protected when crossing the borders.
The Canadian Bar Association advocates for legislative change for how electronic devices are classified under the Customs Act in a manner that recognizes the nature of electronic devices as more than goods and one that has significant privacy implications. This is the right approach and hopefully one day we will see the necessary legislative amendments to make privacy rights properly balanced with the interest of national security.
U.S. border authorities cannot search the cellphones of travelers without having some reason to believe a particular traveler has committed a crime, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.