A man was denied entry to the United States after customs officials read through his gay dating profiles on Scruff and BBRT (Bareback Real Time).
A US Customs and Border Patrol officer accused André, 30, of being a sex worker because of messages saying he was “looking for loads,” which the official thought referred to cash for sex.
André, who refused to publicise his surname for fear of reprisals, said the experience was “humiliating,” and accused the official of having an agenda against him.
Despite trying to explain, he was unable to get through to complete his journey to visit his boyfriend in New Orleans, losing $1200 (£960) in the process.
The Vancouver set decorator was chosen for further inspection before the flight in October, at which point an officer took his phone and computer told him to give over his passwords.
“I didn’t know what to do,” André told Daily Xtra. “I was scared, so I gave them the password and then I sat there for at least an hour or two. I missed my flight.
“He came back and just started grilling me. ‘Is this your email?’ and it was an email attached to a Craigslist account for sex ads. He asked me, ‘Is this your account on Scruff? Is this you on BBRT?’ I was like, ‘Yes, this is me.’”
André said that when he realised there was no changing the officer’s mind, he cut his losses.
“I could tell just by his nature that he had no intentions of letting me through. They were just going to keep asking me questions looking for something.
“So I asked for the interrogation to stop. I asked: ‘If I go back to Canada, am I barred for life?’ He said no, so I accepted that offer.”
A month later, despite bringing proof to the airport that he was not a sex worker, he was still subjected to secondary inspection, with customs officials finding nude photos of him on his phone.
“It was really humiliating and embarrassing,” André said, adding that steps he took to wipe his phone of sex apps, browser history and messages had unexpectedly backfired.
“They said: ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort.
“You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he added.
Jon Davidson, who is the legal director of US LGBT group Lambda Legal, said André “should file a complaint,” adding that what he had been put through was “outrageous.
“Their agents need cultural awareness training to not misunderstand that people who simply are leading a normal sex life are not prostitutes.”
The chief executive of Scruff, Eric Silverberg, said travellers should consider deleting the app and reinstalling it after they arrive.
He assured users that “Scruff synchronises your profile to the cloud, so after reinstalling you may login to regain access to your messages, favourites, albums, etc.
“That said, the best defence against unwarranted searches and seizures by the government is to work to elect leaders who share these ideals and values,” he added pointedly.
By Josh Jackman