Should you take your phone, or yourself, to the United States?

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That is the rather startling advice in a blogpost that is being widely shared right now.

Its author, Quincy Larson, is a software engineer, who has previously written about the importance of protecting personal data.

He now fears that data could be at risk every time you cross a border.

His concerns were sparked by the story of Sidd Bikkannavar, an American-born Nasa engineer, who flew home from a trip to Chile last month. On arrival in Houston, he was detained by the border police and, by his own account, put under great pressure to hand over the passcode to his smartphone, despite the fact that the device had been issued to him by Nasa.

Eventually, Bikkannavar did hand over both the phone and the passcode. It was taken away for 30 minutes and then returned, and he was free to go… More at the BBC.

When I was last in the US 3 years ago I complained about having to have my fingerprints taken at Orlando International. I asked why they needed them and the answers were so weak that I continued to complain.

My wife took me to one side, after having had her fingerprints taken, and advised me that if after an 8 hour flight and a 2 hour queue at the airport we had to get back on a plane to the UK because of my complaining, she would remove my man parts and give them to me in a jar.

She is persuasive at the best of times, but I was in a bind. We were in Orlando for the kids, it was an expensive holiday and there was no choice but to give over my fingerprints just because the American government felt I should do so.

As it happens, the next 2 weeks were a blast and we loved every minute. We felt welcome throughout, there was a sense of calm everywhere and it was the America I grew up reading about and watching on the TV when I was a child. Admittedly, we were mostly in the Disney bubble, but it was a great experience all the same.

If we fast forward 3 years to the crazy time we are in now, America feels very different from across the pond. Stories like the one above send a shiver through my spine even though I could probably sail through any American airport without a hitch. I am white, I have a Scottish surname (Trump is half-Scottish I am ashamed to say) and I don’t pose a threat at all. I do not pose a threat purely on that basis, apparently, and my nationality and colour are the only indicators that I could be a terrorist, apparently. What a load of shit that kind of policy is and how much likelier does it make the chance of a terrorist attack? More likely I would say and it only plays into the hands of people who want to change the way people live their lives in the West.

My wife and I were discussing our next holiday last week and America didn’t even figure. It always has before, it is usually right at the top of the list, but the vibe from the US now is one of exclusion, fear and complete craziness. I feel so sorry for normal right-minded intelligent Americans who have to suffer what is happening now, but having to open my phone to a Government employee is merely the tip of the iceberg for a country that overnight feels remarkably unfriendly.

Categories: Articles

1 reply

  1. I’m right next door to the States, have no reason to fear anything at the border, and I have no desire whatsoever to go down South.

    Here in Canada, in our last election we voted in a Liberal government, which really does seem to be liberal as well. We seem to have gone against the world wide trend of isolation and exclusion. So the “West” is not just the United States or it’s current politics. Canadian policies are becoming more at odds with our neighbour. But it’s a precarious position if you listen to some of the Conservative party leadership hopefuls who seem emboldened by Trump’s win. Constant vigilance is needed and caring enough to vote when we get a chance.

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