If you haven’t already read about it, please check out the recent story of the NASA scientist who was detained by Customs and Border Protection while reentering the country. They then asked him to unlock his NASA-issued phone, citing a statute that allows the search. I am curious how this runs into laws that protect unauthorized access of computer systems, like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Certainly the scientist didn’t have the authority to allow Customs access to NASA’s computer systems. Does that put the CBP agents in violation of the law?
As a civilian, you have limited options for addressing the issue in the moment. Unless, you have a day or two to risk being detained.
I have two solutions to recommend if you want/need to bring electronics with you.
First, travel overseas with a Chromebook. Don’t store anything locally. And, when you hop on the plane back, power wash your computer so that not even your login is left. Since most of your Chromebook operates in the cloud, there is nothing to get at.
Second, either do the same with your phone (you can backup settings and restore later), or travel with a dumb phone and reset it on the way home.
Will this work for everyone? Probably not. But, it covers most situations where you have to travel overseas and bring an electronic device.