With searches exploding, Apple and Google need to make it easier to erase and restore data.
Phone Border Mode:
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It’s pretty clear that U.S. border guards are getting out of hand, if the staggering increase in the number of phone searches is any indication.
As NBC News reports, the number of phones searched in 2016 exploded to 25,000 from just 5,000 a year earlier. This year is going to make 2016 look lame in comparison, with 5,000 searches happening in February alone, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security.
While border guards are evidently emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts at instituting a Muslim ban, it’s important to note that the dramatic increase was happening before he was elected.
It’s also important to note that authorities need a warrant to search phones in the United States, although not necessarily at border crossings. The Constitution, as TechDirt suggests, doesn’t apply in such places.
As NBC reports:
DHS has published more than two dozen reports detailing its extensive technological capability to forensically extract data from mobile devices, regardless of password protection on most Apple and Android phones. The reports document its proven ability to access deleted call logs, videos, photos, and emails to name a few, in addition to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps.
Caught in this dragnet are “businessmen, couples, senior citizens, and families with young kids.”
Given all this, it’s high time for Apple and Google to engineer a “border mode” into their respective operating systems.
Similar to airplane mode, such a setting could ease the copying of all the user’s pertinent data and apps into the cloud, then delete it all from the device before crossing the border. A simple tap or two on the other side could then easily restore all the information.
It’s possible to do much of this already with a hard factory reset, but that requires several steps and can take a long time to do.
On the other hand, it shouldn’t be too hard for companies with the resources of Apple and Google to create a simple and faster shortcut that could also stand up to forensic searches.
If border guards are going to make innocent travellers’ lives difficult, there’s no reason innocent travellers – with a little help from phone makers – shouldn’t return the favour.