Does interest in privacy get you into trouble when traveling internationally?

I am interested in privacy, I use many of the recommended tools, I read books about privacy and about surveillance, espionage, etc.

This summer I want to travel, maybe the US or Canada.

However, due to my hobby, I have developed a bit of a phobia now. Will my interest in privacy get me flagged in advance and mark me for in-depth search on entry to such countries? Will they interrogate me about why I read books by former spies, why I use encrypted emails, etc. and finally send me away unless I give them all my passwords?

I am just a normal IT guy, just interested in visiting some national parks, no particular risk model, neither an activist nor a journalist.

I know that reading news articles has made me a bit too paranoid. I am trying to figure out if there is a real issue to be expected.

Impossible to tell in advance.
If you did something that made some “AI” system flag you, you might experience a rather unpleasant welcome, esp. in the USA.
Or they will just wave you through and wish you a fun time.

The only thing you can do is to prepare for the bad outcome happening, i.e. don’t take your primary devices with you, maybe get a cheap new phone before you travel with minimal personal data on it etc …


I would say that you will probably be fine. Just take normal steps before going through security (lock phone, etc). While the US’s surveillance network is vast, I think it would be a bit of an overstatement to say that its omnipresent (and capable of tracking nearly every person on earth). Also, I find it doubtful that the NSA has the time or resources to maintain a list of EVERY privacy conscious individual, it just doesn’t seem feasible.


I’d recommend turning it off or rebooting and leaving it in “before first unlock” state.


That’s what I meant, sorry for being unclear

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I have personally never had issues travelling besides that I basically always get those “random” tests. They always happen quick, so I don’t mind that.

I use alias emails (as in forward using simplelogin with my own domain) for flights, real name, and a temporary VOIP travel phone number that I purge after the stay. As address, I always provide a private mailbox that is also registered on my name.

Also, I always fly with wiped devices (just download Apple Music after for music on the go) and set them up after arrival again using remembered password and yubikey to get access to everything I need.

Depending on the country of stay (like the USA or Asia) or events I destroy the phone after arrival on motherland, but before going home.

I believe to have a significantly higher risk than you have, but mostly I take it to lengths to practise what I am instructing people with higher threat levels.

If you get integrated just answer honestly. Don’t provide more than they ask but just say you take your privacy seriously, and you work in IT / cyber field and therefore know the risks. American’s especially (sorry for stereotyping) love personal / family safety and understand that argument best.

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No, as long as “interest in privacy” doesn’t mean acting strangely or suspiciously, or doing things like lying to border officials.

No. This is generally only something to worry about if you’re traveling to an authoritarian country and have been publicly criticizing that authoritarian country.

Also no. Or at least, I have never heard of anything like this happening.

Just answer their questions calmly and truthfully and you’ll be fine.

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