As travellers come under increasing scrutiny at Canadian airports and border crossings, lawyers need to be aware of the risks of travelling with electronic devices. Lawyers have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of their clients’ information.

Attached is an advisory prepared by the Federation of Law Societies for Canadian lawyers on the risks of travelling with electronic devices, relevant professional responsibilities and some suggestions and advice for minimizing those risks.

Some suggestions include:

  • Establish a policy about cross-border travel by legal counsel and staff carrying smart phones, laptops and other electronic devices that may contain confidential information of their clients.
  • Get help from IT professionals regarding the security of your devices and alternatives to carrying potential privileged information across the border.
  • If you do not maintain separate devices for work and personal matters, separate your work and personal accounts on your laptop or smart phone if possible so that privileged information in one user account can be easily identified during any prospective searches.
  • Carry identification that shows that you are a legal professional.
  • Put your device on airplane mode to stop information from transmitting and turn it off before approaching the border. When you turn your device on again it will still be in airplane mode and no new information will have been transmitted. Canadian Border Services Agency [CBSA] and Customs and Border Protection [CBP] officers are supposed to look at only information that is on your device, not use the device to access information that is in the cloud.
  • If asked to hand over your electronic device, explain that you are a lawyer and claim privilege if the device may contain privileged information. If the CBSA demands your device containing privileged information, request to see the senior customs officer at the place in which the search is to be conducted.
  • Bring less data with you. If you use a cloud-based storage provider, you may wish to delete cloud-based applications before crossing the border and reinstall afterwards. Contact your IT professionals about how to securely re-install deleted applications.
  • Use encryption and secure passwords.
  • Consider applying for a Nexus pass to reduce the risk of being searched.

You are strongly encouraged to review the attached advisory to ensure that you are fully aware of the risks of travelling with electronic devices and how to minimize those risks.