Going to NZ? You may have to give your pin code or fork out R24,000
Those who refuse to give their security codes will face prosecution
New Zealand’s Customs and Excise Act 2018 came into effect at the beginning of October. Under the new law, customs officers can now ask travellers for their password, fingerprint or pin code at the point of entry in order to access their device.
Those who do not comply could be faced with a fine up to NZ$5,000 (about R24,130).
Under previous laws, customs officers could ask to see digital devices, but were unable to request passwords.
Aside from the fine, if you are asked to unlock your device and do not comply, it can now be seized and withheld for forensic testing and you could face prosecution.
Customs Minister Kris Faafoi argued the power to search electronic devices was necessary for officials. “A lot of the organised crime groups are becoming a lot more sophisticated in the ways they’re trying to get things across the border”, he said. “And if we do think they’re up to that kind of business, then getting intelligence from smartphones and computers can be useful for a prosecution.”
Highlighting exactly what will happen, customs spokesperson Terry Brown said: “It is a file-by-file [search] on your phone. We’re not going into ‘the cloud’. We’ll examine your phone while it’s on flight mode.”
While you can currently be searched at the border into various countries around the world, New Zealand is the first to introduce fines. The US has a different way of dealing with the noncompliant.
Visitors to Donald Trump’s America could have their device simply confiscated and find themselves refused access to the country. You can be turned around and sent on your merry way – possibly without a phone to let anyone know.
Privacy rights campaigners in New Zealand have expressed anger at the new law. Thomas Beagle, chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, said: “Modern smartphones contain a large amount of highly sensitive private information including e-mails, letters, medical records, personal photos and very personal photos. Allowing customs to be able to demand the right to examine and capture all this information is a grave invasion of personal privacy of both the person who owns the device and the people they have communicated with.”
According to the law, officers need to present a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing to request access to your device. However, there are no terms that outline that this has to be proved before your device is confiscated, and there is currently no way to appeal at the time of confiscation.
“The reality of this law is that it gives customs the power to take and force the unlock of people’s smartphones without justification or appeal – and this is exactly what customs has always wanted,” Beagle said.
Rather scathing in their remarks, the NZ Council for Civil Liberties also stated that the law will not catch criminals, but “rather it seems it’s going to catch normal law-abiding people. It’s going to mean that customs officers can take and snoop through any device they wish to.”
They believe the imposition is “disproportionate” and have demanded that it be withdrawn. “This part of the law can’t be justified under the Bill of Rights Act which forbids ‘unreasonable search and seizure’ and it should be removed.”
– © The Daily Telegraph