US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

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I guess factory reset your phone before crossing borders.


I think the better solution is to check your phone in with your luggage and have a burner phone on your person when crossing the border. Especially if you have confidential/sensitive information. Had i been this guy i would have refused and gotten lawyers involved, unless they were specifically denying him access to legal council as well.


Clearly, he has too many consonants in his last name.


I understand being reluctant to call it out, he’s representing NASA and all.

But is there really, in the mind of any reasonable person, even a shred of doubt about the true motive :question:


It does not matter how legitimate you are, if you are going to cross the border, assume the worst will happen and prepare in advance for that.


Roger That!


This reminds me of an epic fail i had when returning to the US from Sweden last year in August. I brought with me a card game to play with a friend, the card game was Exploding Kittens. It did not occur to me that the game was perhaps inappropriate to take with me on my carry on luggage.

On my re-entry to the US a TSA agent looked at it very very puzzled. I had to explain it was a card game, and that i was an idiot for not thinking more about it. She thankfully had enough sense of humor and common sense to not think i was some sort of nefarious person. Especially me being a brown skinned guy (i’m latino, but still).


There’s more to the story; apparently JPL is checking the phone very thoroughly for malware. No word on what they’ve found. I like to believe this was just a combination of overreach and ignorance, because the idea of the government spying on their own scientists is just too chilling.


They should just destroy it and get a new one.


So if a Federal employee is coerced by a TSA agent into exposing potentially sensitive information this way, which agency will ultimately take the heat for the security breach?


It’s ok, with NASA soon to be defunded as “government waste,” the CBP was just helpfully creating a backup of its data.


I’d say keeping it to do a diagnostics on it is useful in order to prevent or root out infected devices besides this particular one


Everyone knows them big-brainy types can’t be trusted. They want to take over the world.


It was a NASA issued phone. People like that guy lose their jobs if they give people access to NASA data they’re not authorized to have.

Heard about any safeguards to prevent border guards from collecting sensitive government data off of phones they scan? I haven’t. Know what kind of security protocol such data collected is kept under? I sure don’t, and neither does NASA apparently.

This is just more incompetence. Another day, another wtf.

I give em at the outside two more months at this rate.


Seems to me it’s inevitable that we’ll wind up with cell phones that will present an entirely different set of apps, preferences, and suchlike if you enter a specific PIN, thus giving the appearance of having been correctly unlocked while keeping all your real data safe. In fact, I’m kind of surprised this isn’t already a thing.

Much the same goes for the utter absurdity of being obliged to present one’s social media credentials.



You go through the border with your luggage. They can pull the phone or laptop out of your bag and present it to you to enter your password before that device makes it through.

I may be incorrect, but I get the impression they want your social media passwords. It isn’t a matter of looking for IED plans on your thumb drive, it’s about who you know, or who knows your friends.

Kevin Bacon must have an awful time at the border these days.

ETA: This could also be a brute-force way to generate a list of NASA scientists that list which NASA would not earlier provide. Or to find a clue to the AltNASA twitter accounts.


I imagine they will, but they want to find out what, if anything, has been added first.


Before the current Political Kerfuffle I worked for a large multinational semiconductor company. one of the things they went over in our training was how to deal with border agents who wanted access to our laptops or phones. The training boiled down to “never ever have your device out of your possession or unlock it for anyone”. We were given a phone number to call if ever asked to unlock a device that went to whatever bloodthirsty lawyers the company kept.

I’m pretty surprised that JPL doesn’t have a similar setup.