Home Security NZ sets NZ$5000 fine for refusing device search at airports
NZ sets NZ$5000 fine for refusing device search at airports Pixabay

Travellers who pass through airports in New Zealand will face fines of NZ$5000 (A$4577) if they refuse to provide a means for customs to access any digital devices they are carrying with them.

The law took effect on Monday and sets guidelines for the manner in which customs are allowed to carry out digital searches, according to  Radio NZ.

Under the updated law, officials would need to have reasonable suspicion to ask a traveller to provide access to a digital device - whether through a password, pin, fingerprint or face recognition.

Anyone who is asked to provide access and refuses, faces a fine and seizure of the device in question.

Radio NZ quoted New Zealand Customs spokesman Terry Brown as saying: "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."

Brown claimed the law was a "delicate balance" between the right to privacy and the duties of law enforcement.

Thomas Beagle, a spokesman for the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, criticised the law and described it as an invasion of privacy that was not required.

"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," he said.

Beagle added that any serious criminals would avoid carrying incriminating material on devices and store it online. "You'd be mad to carry stuff over on your phone," he said.

A total of 540 electronic devices were searched at airports in the country in 2017.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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