Canadian risks prison for not giving up phone's passcode

The American Civil Liberties Union launched a smartphone app that can video record interactions between police and members of the public, and store them for potential use in legal action (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

Montreal (AFP) - A Canadian charged for refusing to give border agents his smartphone passcode was expected Thursday to become the first to test whether border inspections can include information stored on devices.

Alain Philippon, 38, risks up to a year in prison and a fine of up to Can$25,000 (US$20,000) if convicted of obstruction.

He told local media that he refused to provide the passcode because he considered information on his smartphone to be "personal."

Philippon was transiting through the port city of Halifax on his way home from a Caribbean vacation on Monday when he was selected for an in-depth exam.

"Philippon refused to divulge the passcode for his cell phone, preventing border services officers from their duties," Canada Border Services Agency said in an email.

The agency insists that the Customs Act authorizes its officers to examine "all goods and conveyances including electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptops."

But, according to legal experts, the issue of whether a traveler must reveal the password for an electronic device at a border crossing has not been tested in court.

"(It's) one thing for them to inspect it, another thing for them to compel you to help them," Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at Dalhousie University, told public broadcaster CBC.

Philippon is scheduled to appear in court on May 12.

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