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I'm a New Zealand citizen and I might soon be visiting to the US on short notice for business. I've heard that the US have started to frequently search cellphones. I'm not very comfortable handing over my phone and lock code to US customs - as well as copying the contents of the phone (including passwords, giving them unlimited access to all of my accounts) if it's out of my sight they could install extra software or hardware.

But obviously, a cellphone is a must when traveling overseas. Would it be a reasonable idea to get a second, cheap cellphone just for this trip?

Or am I being excessively paranoid? I've never been to or through the US before, only heard the horror stories.

I'll also be bringing a company laptop, but I'm not too concerned about this since I've deliberately avoided storing personal data or credentials on it, and it's a US company.

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    Your definition of frequently probably isn’t the same as mine. One of the articles you linked to says it happens less than 0.01% of the time. However, there’s probably a bias if you’re a middle-eastern male between the ages of 18 and 40 or something like that (or you do have such apparent origin). – jcaron Mar 23 '18 at 8:25
  • I travelled four weeks in the USA in 2013, without any functioning mobile phone. It is not "obviously a must". You can do without. – gerrit Mar 23 '18 at 11:28
  • Another risk to factor in is that a "clean" device may invite extra scrutiny - the perverse "what do you have to hide?" mentality. – pseudon Mar 23 '18 at 15:21
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    You are being mislead by purposely hysterical fake news. – Johns-305 Mar 23 '18 at 18:01
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    @gerrit If my employer asked me to do a four week business trip without access to 3G, I would not give an accommodating answer. – Calchas Mar 24 '18 at 0:36
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If the CBP feels the need, they will either read through your mail and other apps manually on the device, or dump the device using something like one of these Cellebrite devices. You can see a CBP documentary where this is used on youtube: enter image description here

I've entered the US dozens if not hundreds of times and nobody has ever asked to look at my phones, but who knows how likely it will be for you. You can of course take precautions such as wiping and reloading your phone, implementing pair-locking on an iphone, etc., but it's all down to your risk appetite whether you wish to do this.

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