Why AI Is Detaining Sex Workers at the Border—and You May Be Next

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Sydney knew better than to take her cell phone across the border. After years of hearing rumors of friends and colleagues’ having their phones seized by border patrol, she chose to leave both of hers—a personal line and a separate work phone—at home when she traveled to the U.S. from her home in Canada. She and her wife regularly flew to Massachusetts and back without incident to visit her in-laws.

Leaving her devices behind is one of many precautions Sydney—whose name has been changed to protect her identity—takes as a Canadian full-service sex worker, the industry term for what’s more commonly known as an escort or a prostitute. Although escorting is technically legal in Canada under the Nordic Model—the Swedish structure that legalizes selling sex but criminalizes paying for it, which was adopted in Canada in 2014—in practice, legalization hasn’t made a dent in police violence against and surveillance of sex workers. Sydney also chooses to be face-in, meaning she sacrifices potential clients for her privacy and hides her face in advertisements.

Her precautions weren’t enough. Sydney and her wife landed in Massachusetts for a week at the beach in Aug. 2014, two months after Massport installed self-service kiosks at customs in Boston Logan Airport. When Sydney scanned her passport and looked into her reflection on the kiosk screen, time stopped as a big X appeared over her face. She wasn’t going to make it to the beach after all.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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