The password if you want to pass by the gatekeepers? It’s your password. The real one, the one on your device.
The news came Wednesday (Oct. 3) that a new law has bowed in New Zealand. The law, which is part of the Customs and Excise Act of 2018 in that country, reported CNN, gives customs officials the power to demand passwords to electronic devices … or else.
Or else: Those same officials can demand fines, up to the equivalent of USD $3,200. The goal is to have the passwords in place in the event that border officials want to unlock and search those devices.
As the news site reported, New Zealand officials want to allow those searches at the border, which come, as a spokeswoman told CNN, as “the shift from paper-based systems to electronic systems has meant that the majority of prohibited material and documents are now stored electronically.”
New Zealand is the first country to introduce a fine, even as other countries have been permitted to search electronic devices. For instance, foreign nationals visiting the United States can be denied entry into the country if they refuse to allow access to devices – and those devices can be confiscated. The same New Zealand source told CNN that such searches are rare in that country, with a total of 537 devices examined against a backdrop of 14 million visitors.
The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties has said that restrictions that are in place for such demands are less stringent than the ones for police and intelligence operations – and, as CNN noted, they do not require reasonable cause.
“Any professional criminal could easily store their data on the internet, travel with a wiped phone and restore it once they enter the country,” the organization said via a statement. “Any criminal who fails to do this would surely pay (a $3,200) fine rather than reveal evidence relating to crimes that might involve jail time.” The same organization said the law is a “grave invasion of personal privacy of both the person who owns the device and the people they have communicated with.”