NZ: Submit to Digital Search or Face $5000 Customs fine

October 5, 2018 / by Cathy Zollo

Customs officials in New Zealand now have the authority to not only inspect your electronic devices physically but also to have a peek inside, should you arouse any suspicion on the digital front.

For your part, you’re expected to fork over any passwords, access codes, or fingerprints needed to unlock the device or face a $5,000 fine, the seizing of your device(s) and a digital forensic search.

Good thing they can’t ask for this kind of access without having “a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.”

We feel better already, safer even.

The law is being universally panned by civil libertarians, who say it is an unjustified invasion of privacy.

They’re not the only ones. Leading figures in the crypto space — among them Andreas Antonopoulos and the popular Twitter personality Tether_is_Fiat — have both said they’ll no longer visit New Zealand in protest.

“Looks like my New Zealand travel days are over. We need to stand up to these kinds of policies else we become the epitome of the Big Brother state. This is especially true of us in crypto when an unlocked phone = empty wallet.”
@Tether_is_Fiat

“It was nice visiting New Zealand twice. Pity I won’t be going back… In today’s society this kind of orwellian bullshit is unacceptable.”
@aantonop

Officials cited the fact that organized criminals are sophisticated and may use electronic devices to help them move contraband across borders. Electronic searches could offer law enforcement greater prosecutorial intelligence.

We strongly oppose these abuses of property and personal rights and hope other governments don’t try to do the same. We’re sure they’d have a fight in the courts if they do.

This article, created by Kaspersky, provides some excellent information about electronic searches and how to do what you can to avoid them. This is not 100 percent, but it’s still good information. As well, it shows what kinds of information customs officials can pull from your device without your password.

One key piece of advice here is to use full disk encryption (FDE), not your thumb or fingerprint. It’s a lot more difficult to get you to share a password than it is to physically force you to unlock your device with your thumb.