What US. Customs know about you.

by | Jan 2, 2021 | Anonymous Living, Anonymous Travel, Fugitive, New Identity, us customs

Sharing Information Between US and Canada Customs

US and Canadian Customs are now sharing a vast amount of information about their citizens. Additionally, US Customs is making your information available to many foreign governments. Furthermore, some information is also shared with non-government companies. Once the information is shared, it becomes part of the other entities’ databases, so your information can end up in databases worldwide.

Technology at the Borders

Thanks to license plate readers and RFID technology in passports and other documents, border agents know who is approaching them before you arrive at the customs station. Consequently, this information is run against their databases, which will automatically flag persons who warrant additional inspection. See our page on Border Searches for details on what they can search if you trigger a secondary inspection.

Types of Information Available to Customs Officers

To help evaluate whether to allow you to enter their country, border agents have access to various databases that provide an extensive range of information, including:

  • Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database: Contains records of criminal activity, warrants, and other police information in Canada.
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC): The FBI’s electronic clearinghouse of crime data, which includes information on:
    • Wanted persons
    • Missing persons
    • Stolen property
    • Criminal histories
  • Canadian Integrated Customs Enforcement System (ICES): Monitors customs enforcement activities and stores relevant data.
  • U.S. Border Crossing Information (BCI) system: Tracks the entry and exit of individuals at U.S. borders.
  • FBI Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB): Lists individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.
  • U.S. Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS): Aggregates data from various sources to support border inspections.
  • Automated Targeting System (ATS): Maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this system:
    • Analyzes data on individuals crossing U.S. borders
    • Assigns a risk score based on travel patterns and other factors

Additional Data Accessible to Customs Officers

Customs officers can access various other types of information, including:

  • Personal Identification:
    • Name
    • Date of birth
    • Citizenship
    • Address
  • Travel Details:
    • Mode of travel (e.g., car, plane, boat)
    • Purpose of travel
    • Value of goods purchased abroad
  • Criminal History: Records of past criminal activity, arrests, and convictions.
  • Family and Relatives: Information about family members and relatives.
  • Tax Information: Including any delinquent tax payments.
  • Employment: Current job and employment history.
  • Border Crossing History: A complete record of all border crossings, including state ports where checks occurred.
  • Travel Programs: Membership in programs like Global Entry or NEXUS.
  • Military Service: Information about military service, including any dishonourable discharges.
  • Legal Issues: Protection or restraining orders, particularly those related to domestic violence.
  • Mental Health: Records of mental health issues, including hospitalizations for attempted suicide, which can affect entry decisions.
  • Financial Information: Credit card data, property records, and other financial details.
  • Contact Information: Telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Travel Agency: Information about the travel agency or agent used.
  • Flight Information: Details of frequent flyer programs, one-way tickets purchased, and flight no-show history.
  • Physical Characteristics: Descriptions of bodily features.
  • Law Enforcement Intelligence: Various forms of intelligence gathered by law enforcement agencies.
  • Social Media: Information gathered from public social media accounts.

Systems and Processes

License plate readers capture vehicle information at border crossings. Moreover, RFID technology is used in passports and other documents to identify individuals quickly. This information is run against various databases to flag individuals for additional inspection if needed. Thus, systems automatically flag individuals based on risk scores or suspicious patterns.

By leveraging this extensive information, customs officers can make informed decisions about allowing individuals to enter their country and identify those who may pose a risk.

Information Captured at Borders

Every time you cross a border, the following information is captured and put into a database:

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Address
  • Mode of travel
  • Purpose of travel
  • Value of goods purchased abroad

Analysis of Travel Patterns

This information forms your history. Consequently, computers analyze passage histories to pinpoint people who have suspicious travel patterns. On subsequent trips, these individuals may be earmarked for closer scrutiny by customs officials and law enforcement agents.

Secondary Inspections

If you are pulled over for a secondary inspection or search, more information is collected and put into the database, including:

  • The reason for the additional screening
  • The results of any search
  • The border official interview notes
  • Details of any action taken
  • The names of your travel companions

Detailed Data Accessible to Border Officers

Below are some of the other things the U.S. and Canadian Border officers may be able to see if they want to dig deeper:

  • Any criminal history
  • Your citizenship status
  • Family members and relatives
  • Various types of tax information, such as any delinquent tax payments
  • Current job
  • A complete history of all border crossings, including state ports where there are border checks
  • Frequent traveller memberships such as Global Entry or NEXUS
  • Renouncement of U.S. citizenship
  • Dishonorable discharge from the armed forces
  • Protection/restraining orders for domestic violence
  • Mental health information, as police services uploaded an attempted suicide
  • Credit card data thanks to the U.S. Patriot Act
  • All of your contact telephone numbers
  • Your frequent-flyer information
  • The travel agency or travel agent you use
  • Any one-way tickets you’ve purchased
  • Your email addresses
  • Property records
  • Physical characteristics
  • Any law enforcement intelligence information
  • Your flight no-show history

As you can see, many government departments collect a lot of information. This collection can paint a pretty detailed picture of many citizens. Lastly, officials can dig into the internet to see what they can find about you in your social media accounts. It would be best to think twice about what you put up on your social networking site and how it might look to a police officer without much of a sense of humour. Of course, that is always good advice whether crossing a border or just looking for a job.

Privacy Issues

Legal Protections

You should be aware that, as a general rule, courts do not grant you the same protections for information regarding your border crossings as other personal information. The government is given more latitude in collecting and using private information, as crossing a border is not considered a constitutional right. When Canadian information is pulled into the U.S. database or vice versa, it is not subject to the originating country’s privacy laws but rather the country’s policy now holding the information.

Private Sector Access

Some of this information can also enter the private sector. For example, when the U.S. scans your license plate at a border crossing, the record of your trip is retained in various government databases. Furthermore, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a not-for-profit organization funded by insurance companies, is given access to that information to detect stolen vehicles or insurance fraud.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Hassan Aden’s Detention at JFK Airport

Background: In March 2017, Hassan Aden, a former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina, was detained at JFK Airport for an extended period.

Issue: Aden, a U.S. citizen, was returning from Paris when he was stopped by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. Despite having Global Entry status, which expedites clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers, he was detained and questioned about his identity and travel history.

Outcome: Aden was held for approximately 90 minutes without a clear explanation. Consequently, the incident drew significant media attention, raising concerns about the treatment of American citizens by border agents and the potential for racial profiling.

Case Study 2: David House’s Electronic Devices Seized

Background: In November 2010, David House, an American computer programmer and activist, had his electronic devices seized by DHS agents at the border.

Issue: House was returning to the U.S. from Mexico when his laptop, camera, and USB drive were confiscated. House was involved in supporting Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks. Therefore, he believed his devices were targeted due to his association with Manning.

Outcome: House sued the government, alleging that the seizure violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. In 2013, the government settled the case, agreeing to destroy the information copied from his devices and return the original devices to House. As a result, this case highlighted the potential for abuse of power and privacy violations by border agents.

Case Study 3: Sidd Bikkannavar’s Forced Device Unlock

Background: In February 2017, Sidd Bikkannavar, a U.S.-born scientist working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was detained and forced to unlock his phone upon re-entering the U.S. from Chile.

Issue: Bikkannavar, who had Global Entry status, was detained by CBP agents who demanded access to his phone. Despite his protest that the phone contained sensitive NASA information, he was pressured into providing the device’s access code.

Outcome: The incident received widespread media coverage and prompted discussions about the privacy of electronic devices at the border. Consequently, Bikkannavar’s experience underscored the lack of clear guidelines and protections for travellers’ digital privacy.

Scamming the System

If you are denied entry into the country, attempting entry at a different border crossing on the same day, thinking you have a fresh chance with a new customs agent, is the worst thing you can do. Denied admissions are updated in a centralized database and are accessible immediately at every port of entry. This could jeopardize your ability to enter the country for the rest of your life.

Obtaining a Copy of Your File Information

Both the U.S. and Canada have a way for you to obtain a copy of some of the information that the government has collected about you. You may not be able to see your ATS rating. To get what you can from your United States files, visit our page on the Freedom of Information Act. To ask Canada for your files, see our page on the Privacy Act.

Process of Obtaining Information

Given that the two countries are swapping information, it is possible that parts of your files from both countries could be in the records you receive. However, getting this information is not as easy as it sounds, so expect it to take time and energy. Suppose you feel you have been wrongly placed on some watch list or experienced security screening problems. In that case, the Department of Homeland Security has established a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, allowing you to challenge what is in your file. However, we have not heard that going down this road has made much difference.

Tracking Your Border Crossings

You can track your US border crossings over the past five years through an online database courtesy of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This website lets you enter details like your name and Canadian passport number to pull up your US border crossing history over the past five years. If you travel to the US frequently, keeping track of your border crossings will be easier. Although you should still maintain your records, this online database is an excellent tool for verifying your count. It allows you to keep an eye on possible errors. Although the CBP is highly accurate, mistakes can still be made sometimes. This online database will enable you to check your records and ensure their accuracy before it is too late.

How to Access the Cross-Border Database

Accessing the database and pulling up your border crossing history is simple. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection I-94 request page and input your full name, date of birth, and passport number. You will see a history of your US ins and outs.

Should I Still Track My Ins and Outs?

We recommend keeping a personal record of your movements through the US-Canada border and occasionally comparing it to ensure no discrepancies. If there are, have them corrected to avoid any issues crossing the border. The last thing you want is to have the US government think you’ve been in the US for longer than you have.

Disappearing and Starting a New Life

If you are serious about “disappearing” and starting a new life, then it’s time to contact Amicus International Consulting and let us handle the details.

If you would like to work with a professional team that can help make your transition to a life of freedom, contact Amicus Int. for New Identity services today.