Travelers refusing digital search by New Zealand customs now face $5,000 fine

“Travellers who refuse to hand over their phone or laptop passwords to Customs officials can now be slapped with a $5000 fine,” Craig McCulloch reports for Radio New Zealand. “The Customs and Excise Act 2018 – which comes into effect today – sets guidelines around how Customs can carry out ‘digital strip-searches.'”

“Previously, Customs could stop anyone at the border and demand to see their electronic devices. However, the law did not specify that people had to also provide a password,” McCulloch reports. “The updated law makes clear that travellers must provide access – whether that be a password, pin-code or fingerprint – but officials would need to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.”

“If people refused to comply, they could be fined up to $5000 and their device would be seized and forensically searched,” McCulloch reports. “Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Thomas Beagle said the law was an unjustified invasion of privacy. ‘Nowadays we’ve got everything on our phones; we’ve got all our personal life, all our doctors’ records, our emails, absolutely everything on it, and customs can take that and keep it.’ The new requirement for reasonable suspicion did not rein in the law at all, Mr Beagle said. ‘They don’t have to tell you what the cause of that suspicion is, there’s no way to challenge it.’ …Privacy Commissioner John Edwards had some influence over the drafting of the legislation and said he was ‘pretty comfortable’ with where the law stood.”

MacDailyNews Take: “Privacy Commissioner.” (smirk)

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Well, now, there’s a wonderful invasion of privacy. We’ve got a lot of bloody idiots making myopic laws on this rock, that’s for damn sure.

U.S. Customs can search phones but not data stored solely in the cloud – July 14, 2017
U.S. Immigration spent record amount on phone hacking tech just after President Trump’s travel ban – April 13, 2017
American citizens: U.S. border agents can search your iPhone – March 14, 2017
How to get past customs without surrendering your digital privacy – February 17, 2017


    1. Correction: there goes the New Zealand illicit tourism industry. If you have nothing to hide, who cares? AFAIC, they can search my phone- I have nothing to hide…

      1. Correction: Many honest people won’t go based on principle. (It’s doubtful New Zealand has an “illicit tourism industry” of any substantial size.)

        Has nothing to do with anything you have to hide. Looks to me you would have fit right in in Nazi Germany and kowtowed to unreasonable practices as long as you personally weren’t effected and justified it accordingly. Never mind the actual morality of it.

      2. If they don’t go to New Zealand, where are they going to go? Every country on earth has customs and immigration agents at their international borders, and every one of those agents has the authority to order not only a search of your luggage and digital devices, but of your body cavities. At least NZ limits that authority to cases where the agent has a reasonable suspicion that can be articulated to a court before the seized information is used. In most countries, you are subject to the agent’s unrestrained whim.

        The reason for these rules is that some few international travelers do, in fact, have nefarious motives. The US and NZ are not alone in wanting to keep terrorists, pedophiles, and financial criminals off their sovereign territory. Searches based on reasonable suspicion are almost the only way to guard the borders. What alternative do you suggest?

        1. This method did not exist before technology became available. I am saying if it does become a broad practice it will be defeated in the end also by technology. I think one thing we’ve learned is no government can be trusted with our data (despite hollow and untrustworthy assurances to the contrary) so the data will simply disappear off the devices when traveling and reappear after when no Customs official in in sight. Whether or not you have something to hide. It’s going to be a futile effort once people catch on and workarounds are available.

          This is why I’m glad I did most of my traveling when I was a younger man during less paranoid times. However justified all this stuff makes travel less appealing, intrusive and tourism WILL suffer.

        2. In the US they do not have a right to do any of that just because.
          A recent Federal Court ruling b-slapped Customs for heavy handing a family coming from Canada after a family visit. Here is a quote from the ACLU website:

          This ruling is significant because the court reaffirmed what should be obvious: The Constitution protects us at the border. CBP officers frequently tell travelers, including U.S. citizens, that they don’t have rights at the border. They’re wrong. CBP officers can stop people at the border and conduct routine searches of their belongings, but they can’t use unreasonable force or hold people longer than necessary to complete the searches.

      3. @macman1984,

        If you have nothing to hide, your life must be very boring.

        It isn’t the duty of private citizens to prove they have nothing to hide.

        It is the responsibility of the government to prove they have something they need to see.

        That in general, is the reason for privacy laws and amendments.

      4. 🇺🇸This is coming to the greatest country on the planet (USA, incase you unpatriotic twits didn’t know) to filter out and get rid of all these immigrants. “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”🇺🇸

    2. No, you travel with a regular camera and buy a a throwaway phone while you are there. Tell the jackboots at Customs to kiss your ass. Leave your iPhone at home.

      BTW- New Zealand is part of the 5 Eyes group, so the stuff they snatch from your phone//tablet/laptop will end up in the hands of GCHQ, NSA, etc.

  1. Dump everything off your phone and re-download/sync when you are there. There are so many ways around this that the only people it will hurt are the ordinary good folk. What self respecting criminal will keep incriminating evidence on their phone.

    “Suday 4th – Get guns from Fred the Rat”
    “Monday the 5th – Bank Job”
    “Monday the 5th afternoon – Airport for flight to Acapulco”

    1. True dat. Just like banning encryption on consumer devices when any bad guy anywhere can download their own encryption program. It’s right up there with asking someone if they’re a terrorist when they check in at the airport.

  2. It’s a bit inconvenient, but this is where resetting your device before you fly and restoring when you arrive can sometimes be a good idea if you’re concerned about these things.

    FWIW, I believe the same law applies when crossing into the US.

    1. This is, in fact, the practice at US ports of entry, and far more restrained than the practice in most other countries. The only difference is that New Zealand has adopted formal rules that require reasonable suspicion (which must be shown to a court before any seized information could be used). Most countries give their border guards unlimited discretion.

  3. This cannot stand. We certainly don’t want to set a precedent at every country’s customs entrance. It would certainly start a “travel phone” industry with phones with nothing on it worth taking that’s for sure. (Or a “travel mode” that strips all information to bare essentials and then later out of Customs reinstalls it to normal by encrypted means – there’s a way around every problem.) This will not go unchallenged if left to stand.

    Governments who find unscrupulous ways to invade their citizens privacy deserve all the economic and career ending repercussions that come their way.

      1. This is Obama Gulch. One party state. Illegal Alien haven. Highest poverty in the nation. Worst rated for business. Worst quality of life in the nation. Highest taxes (or just about). Highest sales taxes. If you buy a top of the line MacBook Pro here, the state will demand $300 for allowing you to do so. Yet we are building trains that go nowhere using early 20th century tech. And we’re launching a satellite to monitor climate change, when we don’t have enough scooper planes for our yearly fires from hell season.

        No Trump votes here.

        and god help us… the State Legislature has promised to look into numerous Internet issues beginning in 2019.

        1. “And we’re launching a satellite to monitor climate change, when we don’t have enough scooper planes for our yearly fires from hell season.”

          You don’t see the irony in your complaint?

          1. I doubt it seriously. Your ignorance is showing. FYI –

            Did you know that there are as many geniuses per capita in illiterate countries as in literate countries. Fact. Well, except for maybe in CA.

        2. California has the richest poor people in the world.

          Come to Mississippi and I will meet you there and show you poverty- it is the working poor- they make too much for means tested benefits but not enough to live because they live in a “Right to Work (for less)” state.

          If it is worst rated for business, why are Facebook, Google, Apple and a host of others set up there?

  4. It’s not that different for foreign travellers arriving at US passport control. If they ask you to hand over your iPhone and passwords and you refuse, you are likely to be denied entry.

    I don’t have any state secrets or clues about criminal activities within my iPhone, but I certainly wouldn’t want any foreign government agency to be able to clone all the data in my phone, especially the passwords for my finances and then store it in a database which somebody might hack into or use inappropriately.

    1. Apple needs to address this with a “Travel Mode” that strips your phone temporarily of personal data (and then reinstates later via iCloud and encryption). If enough people do it (except doofus Fandroid who thrive on giving up their personal data) they will probably stop bothering as the exercise will get them nothing.

      1. You’d need to have a window of time where you CANNOT restore it back from Travel Mode. Or, perhaps something even stronger, where a third-party (your lawyer) needs to assist you in order for a restore to be possible. Otherwise, they can just demand that you “restore from Travel Mode now.”
        People have discussed and done research on ways to work around these kinds of ridiculous laws. The problem is, when it gets right down to it, they’ve got your body in their possession, so a purely technological solution is often not enough, unless you’re willing to be held indefinitely (or until your lawyer can file a habeas petition).
        There’s a lot involved in challenging and defeating these kinds of draconian proposals – it is a worthy effort to participate in.

      2. Check out 1Password’s new feature that does exactly that. I’ve tried it out, and I’ll use it from now on whenever I travel overseas. Still leaves pics, etc open, but personally I can live with that. PW and anything else gets completely hidden under 1PW’s encryption.

  5. So I expect Apple to fully issue an objection to the law.

    But wait…

    Wasn’t Kim Dotcom operating out of New Zealand?
    This law was enacted to protect against pirating, this also protecting Apple.

    Guess who wins…

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