I always fly internationally with a burner phone, no need to risk my personal data when I can’t even use my phone anyway.
Here is a scary story in Trump’s America.
On January 30th, Sidd Bikkannavar, a US-born scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory flew back to Houston, Texas from Santiago, Chile.
On his way through the airport, Customs and Border Patrol agents pulled him aside. They searched him, then detained him in a room with a bunch of other people sleeping in cots. They eventually returned and said they’d release him if he told them the password to unlock his phone.
Bikkannavar explained that the phone belonged to NASA and had sensitive information on it, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. He eventually yielded and unlocked his phone. The agents left with his phone. Half an hour later, they returned, handed him his phone, and released him.
We’re going to discuss the legality of all of this, and what likely happened during that 30 minutes where Bikkannavar’s phone was unlocked and outside of his possession.
But before we do, take a moment to think about all the apps you have on your phone. Email? Facebook? Dropbox? Your browser? Signal? The history of everything you’ve ever done — everything you’ve ever searched, and everything you’ve ever said to anyone — is right there in those apps.
“We should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium — it is dangerous, long-lasting and once it has leaked there’s no getting it back.” — Cory Doctorow
How many potentially incriminating things do you have lying around your home? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably zero. And yet police would need to go before a judge and establish probable cause before they could get a warrant to search your home.
What we’re seeing now is that anyone can be grabbed on their way through customs and forced to hand over the full contents of their digital life.
Companies like Elcomsoft make “forensic software” that can suck down all your photos, contacts — even passwords for your email and social media accounts — in a matter of minutes. Their customers include the police forces of various countries, militaries, and private security forces. They can use these tools to permanently archive everything there is to know about you. All they need is your unlocked phone.
“If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” — Cardinal Richelieu in 1641
What’s the worst thing that could happen if the Customs and Border Patrol succeed in getting a hold of your unlocked phone? Well…
- Think of all of the people you’ve ever called or emailed, and all the people you’re connected with on Facebook and LinkedIn. What are the chances that one of them has committed a serious crime, or will do so in the future?
- Have you ever taken a photo at a protest, bought a controversial book on Amazon, or vented about an encounter with a police officer to a loved one? That information is now part of your permanent record, and could be dragged out as evidence against you if you ever end up in court.
- There’s a movement within government to make all data from all departments available to all staff at a local, state, and federal level. The more places your data ends up, the larger a hacker’s “attack surface” is — that is, the more vulnerable your data is. A security breach in a single police station in the middle of nowhere could result in your data ending up in the hands of hackers — and potentially used against you from the shadows — for the rest of your life.
Wait a second. What about my fourth and fifth-amendment rights? Isn’t this illegal?
The fourth-amendment protects you against unreasonable search and seizure. The fifth-amendment protects you against self-incrimination.
If a police officer were to stop you on the street of America and ask you to unlock your phone and give it to them, these amendments would give you strong legal ground for refusing to do so.
But unfortunately, the US border isn’t technically the US, and you don’t have either of these rights at the border.
It’s totally legal for a US Customs and Border Patrol officer to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over to them. And they can detain you indefinitely if you don’t. Even if you’re an American citizen.
The border is technically outside of US jurisdiction, in a sort of legal no-man’s-land. You have very few rights there. Barring the use of “excessive force,” agents can do whatever they want to you.
So my advice is to just do whatever they tell you, to and get through customs and on into the US as quickly as you can.
The US isn’t the only country that does this.
It’s only a matter of time before downloading the contents of people’s phones becomes a standard procedure for entering every country. This already happens in Canada. And you can bet that countries like China and Russia aren’t far behind.
“Never say anything in an electronic message that you wouldn’t want appearing, and attributed to you, in tomorrow morning’s front-page headline in the New York Times.” — Colonel David Russell, former head of DARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office
Since it’s illegal in most countries to profile individual travelers, customs officers will soon require everyone to do this.
The companies who make the software that downloads data from your phones are about to get a huge infusion of money from governments. Their software will get much faster — maybe requiring only a few seconds to download all of your most pertinent data from your phone.
If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they’re getting their passport swiped.
Over time, this unparalleled intrusion into your personal privacy may come to feel as routine as taking off your shoes and putting them on a conveyer belt.
And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone — and fighting for your privacy in court — will be a completely moot point.
Governments will have succeeded in utterly circumventing decades of innovation in security and privacy protection. All by demanding you hand them the skeleton key to your life — your unlocked phone.
You can’t hand over a device that you don’t have.
When you travel internationally, you should leave your mobile phone and laptop at home. You can rent phones at most international airports that include data plans.
If you have family overseas, you can buy a second phone and laptop and leave them there at their home.
If you’re an employer, you can create a policy that your employees are not to bring devices with them during international travel. You can then issue them “loaner” laptops and phones once they enter the country.
Since most of our private data is stored in the cloud — and not on individual devices — you could also reset your phone to its factory settings before boarding an international flight. This process will also delete the keys necessary to unencrypt any residual data on your phone (iOS and Android fully encrypt your data).
This way, you could bring your physical phone with you, then reinstall apps and re-authenticate with them once you’ve arrived. If you’re asked to hand over your unlocked phone at the border, there won’t be any personal data on it. All your data will be safe behind the world-class security that Facebook, Google, Apple, Signal, and all these other companies use.
Is all this inconvenient? Absolutely. But it’s the only sane course of action when you consider the gravity of your data falling into the wrong hands.
If you bother locking your doors at night, you should bother securing your phone’s data during international travel.
This may upset Customs and Border Patrol agents, who are probably smart enough to realize that 85% of Americans now have smart phones, and probably 100% of the Americans who travel internationally have smart phones. They may choose to detain you anyway, and force you to give them passwords to various accounts manually. But there’s no easy way for them to know which services you use and which services you don’t use, or whether you have multiple accounts.
We live in an era of mass surveillance, where governments around the world are passing terrifying new anti-privacy laws every year.
“Those who are willing to surrender their freedom for security have always demanded that if they give up their full freedom it should also be taken from those not prepared to do so.” — Friedrich Hayek
With a lot of hard work on our part, enlightenment will triumph. Privacy will be restored. And we will beat back the current climate of fear that’s confusing people into unnecessarily giving up their rights.
In the meantime, follow the Boy Scouts of America Motto: always be prepared. The next time you plan to cross a border, leave your phone at home.
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Check Out This Proposed Trail Across America!
This epic proposal promises a coast-to-coast trail for the ultimate outdoorsman.
Come one, come all, but especially come cyclists and hikers. There is a new project proposal of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the nation’s largest trails organization. that offers the possibility of the greatest trail in America. For the first time in American history, “The Great American Rail-Trail” will be the longest and most ambitious trail project of its kind. Only the highest trail quality types are suitable for this project. From long-distance cyclists to casual explorers, to runners, all will be able to appreciate the journey set forth by this proposal.
Stretching over 3,700 miles, the trail will reach between Washington DC to Washington state. Foot-based travelers will traverse over 125 existing trails, greenways, and additional multiuser paths through 12 states: Washington D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and finally Washington. At the moment, over 52% of the route is pre-existing.
Criteria set forth by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy demand that a minimum of 80% of the trails are initially separated from vehicle traffic. Eventually, 100% of the trails are expected to be separated. Once the proposal, funding, and expected successes are in place, 90 trails gaps between these pre-existing trail will be completed.
For over 30 years, the RTC has had their mind of this incredible new project. They have worked with several dozen state agency representatives and hundreds (if not thousands) of trail partners to accurately assess and plan out the preferred trail routes.
The trails featured on this national treasure will represent the beauty and trail priorities of the states that contain them and as well as their local jurisdictions that host and maintain them. Plus, this project will be an unbelievable catalyst for local economic development and provide new services and routes for long-distance travelers.
The RTC has partnered with state and local trail officials to define the premier and preferred route for this “first-of-its-kind” trail. A comprehensive route assessment was established after a 12-month long analysis using detailed GIS (geographic information system) database with information from more than 34,000 miles of existing routes. Reviews from 300 state and local trails were explored to plan future trail additions as well.
“We have the chance to create from that vision a national treasure that unites millions of people over thousands of miles of trail… This trail is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide – together – an enduring gift to the nation that will bring joy for generations to come,” stated Ryan Chao, the president of the Rail-Trail Conservancy.
Don’t Believe Everything You Hear: Debunked Caribbean Myths
There are a lot of myths out there about the Caribbean. And we’re here to debunk every one of ’em!
When you hear “the Caribbean” what do you think of? Most people stop after pirates and nice beaches. And while there are plenty of beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, you certainly won’t be running into Jack Sparrow while you’re there. And that’s just one myth about the Caribbean!
There are actually a lot of other myths and assumptions floating around these days about the Caribbean. Some of them are true, and some of them are most certainly false. So we thought we’d help you out and break down the more common myths that are definitely not true. It’s time to learn the truth and put the Caribbean back on your list of future vacation destinations!
IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE
I think many people assume that, because it’s an island getaway kind of place, the Caribbean must be expensive. Just getting there must cost a fortune because it requires landing at weird airports or traveling by water. And for some places in the Caribbean, this can be true. But there are plenty of options that are pretty cheap!
If you fly out of Fort Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines, you can find flights as cheap as $200. And as long as you visit in the quieter seasons, it’s very easy to find cheap enough lodging. Not to mention, in places like Cuba and Haiti, the exchange rate will make you feel like a millionaire with all those precious U.S. dollars!
YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PASSPORT TO VISIT
Nope! You definitely don’t need a passport to check out parts of the Caribbean. Specifically, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are official U.S. territories. So you can take a trip to either of those same as you would take a trip to visit Grandma in Ohio! It’s starting to sound pretty easy, isn’t it?
YOU BASICALLY CAN’T ISLAND HOP
Another common assumption is that it’s basically impossible to hop from one island to the other. At least in terms of cost, let alone anyone actually having the physical ability to do it. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are a bunch of ferries that go from one place to the other that can give you a round trip for the same cost of a cheap flight.
And if you have a few extra bucks, it’s really not that hard to charter your own boat! There are plenty of catamaran owners in the area that are more than happy to take a lower-than-you’d-think rate to take you and your family or friends around the Caribbean. And especially if you’re with a group of friends, splitting the cost will make it feel like you’re practically a pirate yourself.
THERE’S NOTHING TO DO EXCEPT SIT ON THE BEACH ALL DAY
Come on now, people… you’re smarter than this! Of course, there are still lively communities and culinary traditions in the Caribbean! So, while relaxing on a beautiful beach is probably at the top of the list of things to do while you’re there, there is still plenty of other things to enjoy in many parts of the Caribbean.
There’s the annual Carnival in Trinidad, The St. Lucia Food and Rum Festival, the Barbados Concorde Experience (where visitors can experience what it feels like to fly a French jet), and the amazing Museum of Art in San Juan, Puerto Rico. So don’t be so foolish as to assume the Caribbean is only a bunch of beaches.
THE HURRICANES IN 2017 BASICALLY DESTROYED IT ALL
While it’s true that the numerous hurricanes that hit the are in 2017 did their fair share of damage, the Caribbean is still alive and well. There are plenty of hotels that have still unfortunately been unable to reopen in places like Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, and Puerto Rico. There are plenty of others in places like Aruba and Jamaica that were basically untouched.
And even places like St. Barts that were hit pretty hard have seen many of their local business rebuild and reopen and are quickly returning to their former glory.
What else do you need?! It’s as good a time as any to visit the beautiful Caribbean. Because it’s always been a good time to visit the Caribbean!
Why You Should Live in the Rivertowns
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of New York, a quick jaunt upstate to the Rivertowns is the perfect place. The Rivertowns, straddling the Hudson River, is a collection of picture-perfect villages that combines laid-back living with the convenience of amenities and easy transport options.
The Rivertowns in Westchester County consist of cozy and picturesque towns. It is resplendent with typically 19th-century architecture, stunning views of the river, and thriving centers full of creative and artistic individuals. As more people look to make the break from urban living in New York and trade skyscrapers for tree-lined streets and spacious homes and gardens, interest in the Rivertowns has grown.
In this blog post, we will look at four communities in the Rivertowns to consider moving to. If you’re looking for a quaint and historic community in which to raise a family, grow old in comfort, or get back to nature, you’ll find it all in the Rivertowns.
Further out from the city than many of the other communities within the Rivertowns but if it’s good enough for Don Draper and his family, it’s good enough for us. This stunning community is famed for its architecture and historic buildings. Ossining is an affordable location within Westchester, which has drawn many young professionals from the city.
Ossining features a wide selection of houses, from historic to new constructions. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or looking to upgrade or move location, Ossining has it all.
2. Sleepy Hollow
A 40-minute train journey from the city, Sleepy Hollow is known worldwide for its connection to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. A mixture of new constructions and historic homes, the charming community is popular with creative types, history buffs, and people looking for a more laid-back environment that is still close to New York.
The city’s sixth borough, with a population of around 200,000, has excellent education options, easy transportation to Grand Central, and recreation options (including Untermyer Park). The largest of Westchester’s cities, Yonkers has an urban feel that offers the benefits of suburban living. There is a wide mix of Victorian homes and luxury apartments on the market in Yonkers.
With a creative and environmentally conscious ambiance, Hastings-on-Hudson boasts a lively downtown and impressive views of the Hudson. 35 minutes by train to Grand Central, this community is packed full of high-regarded amenities, including restaurants and public parks. Popular for families due to its excellent schooling options, it has a close-knit population of around 8,000.
Click here to learn more about the Rivertowns and its appeal to those looking to move out of the city.
Find a New Lease of Life in the Rivertowns
Experience the benefits of suburban living with easy access to New York City. Embrace your creative and artistic side in the Rivertowns. Choose from stunning 19-century homes to new, luxurious apartments and condos.
Did you like this blog post? For other great articles on travel, living, and food, check out our blog.
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