What would you do if law enforcement asked for your phone?

Continuing the discussion from Experience with Apple's Lockdown Mode:

@Acolyte brought up a good use case for why you would have to have Lockdown Mode turned on: so that you can be protected from airport security trying to copy your phone.

I don’t know what I would do if airport security asked for my phone. Most likely I would just follow instructions and go along with whatever they asked just to get out of that situation as soon as possible. I don’t know if I could be a ‘privacy advocate’ in that moment, lol.

If I handed over my phone, I would factory reset as soon as I could. Maybe I would also go to some tech store or tech department in a big box retailer and see if I could trade it in for a new phone. I don’t know what the government may have done to my phone, but I don’t want to have to trust a factory reset over whatever they may have done.

Is it likely that a good old factory reset would solve the problem? I think so, if they even put any software on my phone at all. But better safe than sorry.

What would you do in that situation? How would you reset after the fact, if at all?

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you could maybe ask them if you are required by law to hand over your phone, and ask them to show you the law that requires this.

I have a profile in my phone which is just an empty default profile. I will log into it and then only handle my phone if legally obligated.

I would not unlock it by any means and put as much problems to them as possible (obviusly without causing me any legal troubles).

This is seriously something you should research in your area. In the good old USA leo requires a warrant just to take your phone this doesn’t happen normally. As in your free to go but you have to hand over your phone.
Now there are a million ways leo can end up with your phone. Any time your booked in guilty or not, your arrested, your property in your possession is inventoried. Goes in a little sack with your wallet or purse. If your vehicle is impounded, you need to make a decision what stays in the vehicle and what gets booked in, really quick.
Standard disclaimer not legal advice, you know…

You need to be careful with this.
International airports are practically civil-rights-free zones if the authorities choose to get aggressive.
Here’s some good guidance:

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Air ports are funny, by the way an relatively inexpensive AR15 lower is a gun and you have to check it when you fly. You can put that in a TSA approved luggage and you know put your phone or what ever in the checked bag…

Hey Perkins, can you edit this post please? I’m trying to understand what you’re saying here.
(And I swear I’m not drunk right now)

Just saying you don’t have a phone on you when you travel.

Using a $100 AR-15 lower to justify checking your luggage in a TSA approved luggage which has locks which can not be inspected once you control when its locked.

“container as checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted.”

A rifle length TSA approved case can hold a lot of shit you don’t want a baggage handler to go through.

@Perk1ns I think you are confused. The concern regarding searches of electronic devices when going through airports is not that baggage handlers will peruse them. Rather, it is that when going through customs (that is, upon arrival at an international destination) that customs authorities may demand to inspect your electronic devices. They will definitely inspect any firearms transported across international borders. Indeed, even when traveling domestically (in the United States), transporting a firearm by plane will tend to attract attention. It’s completely counterproductive.

In the United States, airport security will not demand to inspect the data on your electronic devices. When going through security checkpoints, your devices (and other personal effects, as well as your hands) may be swabbed and tested for explosives residue.

For U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning from travel abroad (whether by air, sea, or land), it’s possible that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will demand to inspect your electronic devices. You cannot refuse this demand. However, you don’t have to facilitate their violating your privacy.

When passing through customs, you can ensure that your devices are either in a locked state or preferably, powered down. You can also ensure in advance that your data is encrypted at rest and protected by a strong passphrase. If you have an Apple laptop, enable FileVault (and Lockdown Mode). If you’re using Windows, use BitLocker. If you’re using Linux, use LUKS full disk encryption.

If you’re using Android, there is a clever app called Private Lock that you can use to quickly lock your phone by shaking it. It may also lock your phone if someone grabs it from you, or if you drop it:

While U.S. customs inspectors may demand that you unlock your devices, you are not legally required to do so, nor are you legally required to provide your passphrases. If you refuse to unlock your devices or provide passphrases, they may be impounded, and it may be weeks or months before you get them back. You may also be detained for further inspection, and if you have a connecting flight, you may miss it.

Personally, I would not unlock my devices or provide my passphrases to U.S. Customs and Border Protection under any circumstances.

You still can travel with a firearm, I guess I should say domestically or anywhere else it is legal and you follow the law. You as well can store other items in that checked luggage.
If you got into a situation between checking that luggage and getting that luggage later that luggage contents would not be on you, in your possession.
My point is not to be in possession of a device if your increasing your chances of being searched if that helps.
Going back to leo, leave it in your vehicle if your getting out of the vehicle and your property is handled differently than if it is on you.
Every time you get booked in to jail you will hand over your phone, unless you hide it in your prison wallet. :slight_smile: if you have the phone with you when detained. This is no different then handing off your bail money to the person who is about to bail you out.

I wouldn’t bring my phone through an airport or border. I’d rather buy a cheap prepaid phone and use that for traveling.

What I do

I started forcing myself to live without fingerprint unlocking for this reason. Shortly put laws are usually more strict with passwords then with biometrics (4th amendment right).
Also If I ever go to an airport or a riot or any place where this kind of behavior might happen I would leave my phone -(ideally at home but that’s not really a solution)- turned off with full-disk encryption enabled so nothing can be installed or removed from it unless I unlock it.

My Advice:

PS: this is not legal advice, make sure you know your rights

If you’re ever asked to hand over your devices and passwords, make sure you have educated yourself in advance about your rights in the country you’re entering.

Find out whether what you are being asked is optional or not.

Just because someone in a uniform asks you to do something, it does not necessarily mean you have to comply. If you’re not sure about your rights, ask to speak to a lawyer and don’t say anything that might incriminate you.

Keep your cool and don’t argue with the customs officer.

Full unofficial list of what you can do in advance:

  1. Use burner phones
  2. Disable biometrics
  3. Power off phone
  4. Use a strong password
  5. Utilize full disk encryption
  6. Remove accessories such as phone cases, SIM cards etc.
  7. Lock your SIM card
  8. Enable Protection Against USB Devices if you can
  9. Change your phone’s auto-lock to minimum
  10. Prevent notifications from showing on the lock screen
  11. Protect your mobile service account using a “security notice”
  12. Carry a signed letter from your attorney saying that he/she will represent you
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From what I know, these law enforcement scanners will copy all of the data on your phone, send that data to a lab, where they try to decrypt it by brute force, to get all of your data. There have also been instances of spyware or tracking software being installed by the government.

By law, they are allowed to ask you for something you have, but cannot ask you to disclose anything you know. This means that they can ask for your fingerprint to unlock the phone, if you have fingerprint unlock, because that’s something you have. But they cannot force you to disclose your password, which is something you know.

I would restart my device before giving it over, because restarting takes the encryption key out of the RAM, and requires a password to unlock the phone. After the phone search is done, I would factory reset the phone.


If you’re using Android, there is a clever app called Private Lock that you can use to quickly lock your phone by shaking it. It may also lock your phone if someone grabs it from you, or if you drop it

Ooh I love this. Would definitely be useful in protests.

I’m not sure if this is a standard feature of Android but I know on GrapheneOS you can set an interval to reboot the phone, which can make it harder to crack the passcode on it.