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I guess this is the type of question I should start with "a friend of mine wants to know..." but I was wondering if in general governments keep a record which gets updated each time you go through inmigration in another country in some sort of centralized database, or they have to check your passport stamps to check were have you been in between your departure and arrival.

I guess each country must have their own rules, but I am asking in a general sense.

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Normally not through your passport since you may have more then one. But it's a lot easier to track you through your banking transactions. :) –  Karlson Feb 13 '13 at 3:24
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They have found Bin Laden who doesn't even have a passport! sure they can find you if they wish... –  MeNoTalk Feb 14 '13 at 2:10

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Unless you're from a country that requires you to obtain an exit visa, there is no sharing of information as a general rule.

Even in cases where there are information sharing agreements, such as between the US and Canada, the US and Mexico, or in the Schengen area, the information that is shared is about people from outside the info-sharing nations, but not about their own citizens.

It may be possible for one country to ask for legal assistance to obtain information about a specific person, and who knows what information is shared by the secret services, of course, but on the visible side, countries do not know what their citizens do while away.

EDIT As pointed out by @MeNoTalk, the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), where airplane passenger data is transmitted to the destination country. Thus, your government may not know where you're headed, but they will know from where you return, if you come back by plane.

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There are many ways if the government want to knows your locations, APIS is one of them, the data is held by the US government. –  MeNoTalk Feb 13 '13 at 5:31
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@HaLaBi: good point. I forgot about APIS. I've updated my answer. –  Jonas Feb 13 '13 at 13:43

In general, governments don't work all that well together. In a world where some countries don't have diplomatic relations, wage war on each other or forbid contact with some other nations, it's difficult to imagine how an effective central database or information exchange system would be coordinated.

You're much more likely to be monitored in one way or another by the countries you're going to, not the country you're coming from or by some third parties with lots of resources. Of course, if you are coming from the US, your country falls in the latter category and your government does seem to have many means to know where you are if it so wishes, and that not only for its own citizens.

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The US and UK governments record all phone calls and emails that go through those countries, so the number you call from or the IP address that you connect to the internet from would be recorded by them if you made such calls/emails.

Edit: I was asked to provide some references for this info.

  • See the lawsuit by the Electronic Freedom Foundation https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying for more details on the NSA warrantless wire tapping.
  • This BBC article talks about widespread wire tapping by project Echelon which is used by the US and UK among other Western countries http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1357513.stm
  • This BBC article talks about new UK law that would track every communication made by phone, email, text or Skype http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17595209 "Internet service providers (ISPs) are obliged to keep details of users' web access, email and internet phone calls for 12 months, under an EU directive from 2009... It would also reportedly allow intelligence officers to access emails, calls and texts as they happen, without a warrant".
  • This Wired article http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/ talks about the $2 billion NSA Bluffdale datacenter opening this year in Utah "Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital pocket litter."

I imagine some other countries do the same thing. I don't think they actively track citizens (although if they were suspicious of you they could). However if they ever stopped you, in say 10 years time, then they could search back through all the saved data to see what you had said and where you were. And in addition they use pattern matching software to search the saved data as it comes in to look for suspicious behavior.

This is somewhat similar to what your bank does to look for suspicious credit card transactions when you travel - which is of course another way that government can see where you have been if their are curious enough.

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Do you have a reference of the US/UK doing this? –  andra Feb 19 '13 at 21:11
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eff.org/nsa-spying "News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, combined with a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of American's telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the US Constitution." –  Michael Smith Feb 19 '13 at 23:31
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I think that might be the case for people who are it a watch list or something, I am not sure they do that for every call or email from everyone...although everything is possible I guess. –  JordanBelf Feb 20 '13 at 0:45

Going into James bond mode: If you are worth spying on, definitely!

Going off James bond mode: No, it would be really hard to implement. In only a minority of countries your passport is actually scanned with a computer. Usually you only get "the look" by the passport checking official.

Even if you emigrate your country does not know by default about your whereabouts, unless you explicitly register at the consulate of your country. I am not sure if you can do this when just traveling through a country. It can be worthwhile if there is a risk that you might be evacuated.

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I'm not sure what Going of James bond mode could mean so I couldn't edit it into something I thought makes sense. Want to have a try yourself? (-: –  hippietrail Feb 13 '13 at 12:14
    
I think he means something like [paranoid mode on] and [/paranoid mode off]. –  travelot Feb 13 '13 at 14:30
    
Maybe the james bond is to informal. What I meant is that if you are worth spying on by the different authorities, you will be followed and your government know where you are. For the mere majority, I honestly think that any government doesn't care. You will cry for help if you need them. –  andra Feb 13 '13 at 16:10
    
actually, ever more countries scan all outgoing passports in airports, during checkin. Of course it's not officially the government doing it but the airline to get a passenger manifest for emergencies, but the lists are available to law enforcement if desired. Of course that doesn't tell anyone where you're eventually headed, as you may well switch planes to somewhere else along the way. –  jwenting Feb 13 '13 at 19:39
    
Regarding the last point (can you register when just traveling), some countries (e.g. France and Germany) maintain online registration systems for short travels, to coordinate evacuations and the like. There are even smartphone apps to do it… –  Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 15:29

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