Thursday, February 16, 2017

When Personal Tech Means Trouble - Crossing a Border

Ideally these days when travelling to the USA we leave our tablet/laptop at home and have with us only a simple old-fashioned cellphone with no data storage capabilities.

Sadly border crossing traveller harassment is not new and not restricted to entering the USA. Years ago I was returning by plane to Canada from a mixed business and pleasure trip to Palm Springs California dressed in a tee shirt and shorts and with desert boots on my feet. Everyone else on the flight was in business attire (I was flying into Canada's oil patch). I was last off the flight when Canada Customs, who had let everyone else go smoothly through, pulled aside the sole sartorial degenerate on the plane.

Two female officers laboriously worked through my data file by file and pored over my search history. I had borrowed this (office-owned) machine from a female colleague; as she seemed a good sort with a (hopefully) uncontroversial lifestyle I tried not to worry, but nevertheless was very conscious that a few days before a very senior Canadian male military figure had been caught returning with a deal of pornography on his government-issued laptop. Our newspapers had had a field day.

After nearly an hour had gone by and every other traveller had long gone (it was late at night), a presumably senior male agent came by to tell the ladies to give me a break. He probably wanted to lock up or whatever they do.

Finally at midnight I was on my way into town, fuming and yet very relieved. Back then my usual laptop was a family one and my teenage son was both a frequent visitor to porno sites and very good at burying any evidence of his clandestine searches from the view of his much less tech-savvy parents when they too used the machine.

So we can conclude that porting our tech gadgetry along for an international flight nowadays only adds to our chances of hating the whole experience. This can be especially true for the USA, where since long before Trump, border agents have effortlessly managed to be rude and arrogant as a matter of course. 
As if such time-wasting intrusions on our personal sense of control needed yet more impetus, another article in the same NYTimes warns us that airlines are trying on another self-serving cost-saving measure that involves eliminating the seat-back screens on planes in favour of streaming in-flight entertainment to each passenger's own portable device! So much for a 'no data' trip with minimal old-tech!

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