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A Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact

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When Ryan Lackey travels to a country like Russia or China, he takes certain precautions: Instead of his usual gear, the Seattle-based security researcher and founder of a stealth security startup brings a locked-down Chromebook and an iPhone SE that’s set up to sync with a separate, non-sensitive Apple account. He wipes both before every trip, and loads only the minimum data he’ll need. Lackey goes so far as to keep separate travel sets for each country, so that he can forensically analyze the devices when he gets home to check for signs of each country’s tampering.

Now, Lackey says, the countries that warrant that paranoid approach to travel might include not just Russia and China, but the United States, too—if not for Americans like him, than for anyone with a foreign passport who might come under the increasingly draconian and unpredictable scrutiny of the US Customs and Border Protection agency. “All of this applies to America more than it has in the past,” says Lackey. “If I thought I were likely to be a targeted person, I would go through this same level of protection.”