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This question already has an answer here:

There is a question about the UK and the US and whether their border officers can search your laptop. This is a more general question.

Can customs check files and software inside your laptop or flash cards, external discs, etc? Does this happen in any countries?

marked as duplicate by Karlson, Mark Mayo, Tor-Einar Jarnbjo, Gilles, Gagravarr May 10 '14 at 11:40

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    Welcome to travel.SE. It's unclear what it is you're asking can you be more specific? – Karlson May 9 '14 at 17:59
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    On one occasion when entering China with essentially a full electronics workshop in my luggage I got a full search of everything (except me :-)) and they tool all my DVDs and CD's away "to read". I doubt if they went through them all and many were new blank ones - but that matches your query. – Russell McMahon May 10 '14 at 14:44
  • Comment on the update: I understood the original question as “Does it happen anywhere at all?” but it seems it's not what you meant by “any countries”. Do you want to know if there are countries where border guards do not legally have this power? – Relaxed May 10 '14 at 16:34
  • My laptop has been searched (files opened, etc) by customs when entering Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and when entering China from Kyrgyzstan via the land border. At that last crossing, they also looked inside USB memory sticks. It seemed that the customs agents were just bored and curious about a Western tourist more than anything - it wasn't an extensive search, and their level of computer knowledge was minimal to non-existent (at one of the crossings they thought the Windows sample photos were my photos). Never happened anywhere else as far as I remember in all my travels. – Eugene O May 14 '14 at 4:18
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I watch Border Security, which shows Canadian border officials at land crossings and airports. They show the officers in secondary looking through people's phones very frequently. (Typically their lies fall apart because they have all these texts and emails about what they are going to do when they get to Canada, and once shown these emails or texts they abandon their cover story.) There was one episode where a returning Canadian absolutely refused to provide his password and got super irate, demanding a written copy of the law that allowed them to ask for it. They gave him a printout (I didn't read it, but I presume it was of the relevant law) and he reluctantly signed them in to the laptop.

What's more, this is not a case of you signing in and them telling you to click stuff. They take the phone or laptop away out of your sight and poke around in it. Gives me the chills, really. But as this answer to a similar question says, basically every country can do this, though the chances of them doing so are very low.

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    That's why I always use TrueCrypt and I always have a fake disk feature, so if they ever ask me to put the password to decrypt it I will use the fake disk password. My stuff is my stuff, not theirs. Anyway, I am yet to face this. – Nean Der Thal May 9 '14 at 18:39
  • Here's an example of the potential thoroughness of such an inspection: huffingtonpost.com/niels-gerson-lohman/… Chances are a lot higher of this happening in the US/UK/Canada than in China or other countries, I think. They probably image the info so they can crack it at their leisure if the want to. – Spehro Pefhany May 9 '14 at 19:01
  • Plausible Deniability is something everyone should know about. – JonathanReez May 9 '14 at 19:35
  • Hmmm. Does this mean that they can copy my files, including my projects which I don't want to disclose and my business correspondence? – user626528 May 9 '14 at 19:39
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    @KateGregory No "almost" required. They can, and will, if they choose to. Here are the Canadian Bar Association's recommendations on securing laptops against such aggressive violations of privacy: cba.org/CBA/practicelink/tayp/laptopborder.aspx Note the recommendation to wipe your computer after it has been accessed by such folks. – Spehro Pefhany May 10 '14 at 15:09

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