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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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'Unjustified invasion of privacy': New Zealand customs given power to demand access to your device

Border guards now have the power to demand your passwords and pins to open your smartphone.

Under the new regulations tourists must hand over the details or face a substantial fine.
Under the new regulations tourists must hand over the details or face a substantial fine.
Image: Shutterstock/Naresuan261

AUTHORITIES IN NEW Zealand can now force you to hand over access to your digital devices when you arrive at border checks. 

Under the Customs and Excise Act 2018 which comes into force this week visitors who come under suspicion by officers must hand over their passwords so that mobile phones and other electronic devices can be searched. 

If tourists refuse they could be hit with a fine of NZ$5,000 or almost €3,000. 

The legislation provides powers to border officials to examine all goods that come to their attention, including codes, passwords and encryption keys. 

Privacy campaigners have reacted angrily to the news with the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties describing it as an unjustified invasion of privacy. 

In a statement posted on the group’s website its spokesperson Thomas Beagle said: 

Smartphones contain a large amount of highly sensitive private information including emails, 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.

The organisation says the laws involved leave too much room for leeway on whether or not a search of this kind can take place. 

Beagle said the laws in themselves will not prevent criminal behaviour: 

Any professional criminal could easily store their data on the internet, travel with a wiped phone, and restore it once they enter the country. Any criminal who fails to do this would surely pay $5k fine rather than reveal evidence relating to crimes that might involve jail time.

The new search powers came into force this week, if any tourist refuses to provide access to their device customs officials have the right to seize it. 

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