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Electronic searches at the border – what are your rights?


Recently NZ introduced some new legislation that represents a major intrusion, potentially, on individual liberty. It may be seen, as well, as another barrier to tourism.

Jesse Mulligan spoke to  John Edwards, Privacy Commissioner about this.

There was a brief accompanying item to the audio, of which there is an extract below:-

At the start of this month some new legislation was pushed through with guidelines on how authorities can search your digital devices at the border.

But even when you know it’s covered by law, being asked to hand over your phone and laptop is a bit freaky.

So, what should you do if authorities ask to see your electronic devices when you’re travelling overseas?

Edwards seems to take a rather permissive attitude towards the law. He seems rather more accepting than the author of the article referenced below. There is a variance between Edwards and the author over the issue of oversight.

Edwards seems very tolerant of Customs, ie government rights, rather than the individual.

However, RNZ published this piece as well the other day, which first alerted Adam to this legislation.

What to do if a border agent demands access to your digital device

The article begins

Imagine returning home to Australia or New Zealand after a long-haul flight, exhausted and red-eyed. You’ve just reclaimed your baggage after getting through immigration when you’re stopped by a customs officer who demands you hand over your smartphone and the password. Do you know your rights?

It is very worhwhile to read in full, the concluding paragraphs are excellent, Adam’s bolding:-

You should also be smart about how you manage your data generally. You may wish to switch on two-factor authentication, which requires a password on top of your passcode. And store sensitive information in the cloud on a secure European server while you are travelling, accessing it only on a needs basis.

Data protection is taken more seriously in the European Union as a result of the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation.

Microsoft, Apple and Google all indicate that handing over a password to one of their apps or devices is in breach of their services agreement, privacy management, and safety practices. That doesn’t mean it’s wise to refuse to comply with border force officials, but it does raise questions about the position governments are putting travellers in when they ask for this kind of information.

So the law requires NZ travellers to breach valid agreements that they may have with their suppliers of equipment and software. What a crock!

Why does NZ not take data protection seriously?

Perhaps we need in NZ to consider whether as part of our oft trumpeted love of freedom and human rights an equivalent of the GDPR should be passed in NZ?

The item and articles brought Adam’s attention to an issue which he had not fully thought about. Basically, when travelling we need to be much more conscious of our device and app security at all times.

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