Journalists need to be careful when crossing between Canada and the United States because of the far-reaching powers of border guards, a speaker told the journalism school teach-in Tuesday.

Robert Osborne, a longtime journalist and Ryerson instructor, said travellers should understand they don’t have all the legal protections at the border that they would expect in either country. Granting permission to someone to enter the U.S. is a decision that can be left to the whim of a border guard.

“This is no-man’s land, there are no rules to protect you and you have no rights. They can practically do anything to you, so comply. Even if they ask for your phone, hand it over,” he said.

The talk was part of a day-long event in the Rogers Communications Centre, with guest speakers talking to student journalists about what the field looks like today.

The discussion on surveillance was headed by Tom Walters, the Los Angeles chief bureau of CTV.

He attended via Skype and discussed how day-to-day reporters are having a somewhat “difficult time at the U.S. border” with reporting stories.

Osborne shared advice on how to “create a low-key profile” when traveling across the border.

“If you’re wearing sunglasses or a hat, just make it easier and take it off. Smile, be nice to the guy,” he said. “The quicker you can get through, the better it is.”

The audience, made up mostly of journalism students, received this with a little laughter, but Osborne was serious.

About one-quarter of Canadian Internet traffic is routed through the U.S., which means that usage is subject to much scrutiny.

Tom Cooke, from King’s University, joined Walters and shared a solution for this.

“It is difficult to travel to a place of privacy, therefore you must enable your own privacy,” he said.

He spoke about The Onion Router, a search engine created for more private browsing. It takes any queries and reroutes them through different computers, making one’s digital footprint almost impossible to track.

“You can even access the deep web on [The Onion Router], but be aware, 87 per cent of the deep web is used for illegal activity. So use it constructively,” said Cooke.

While U.S. president Donald Trump’s behaviour has alarmed some journalists, the speakers assured students there are ways to dodge extreme surveillance and control their privacy.

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