​Will inspecting electronic devices pose a potential privacy threat?

Customs are seeking greater power to force travelers to reveal laptop and mobile phone passwords

Concern is mounting for New Zealanders’ privacy rights as the Government signals Customs will have the power to inspect electronic devices coming across the border.

As outlined by Customers Minister Nicky Wagner, customs are seeking greater power to force travellers to reveal laptop and mobile phone passwords, with the Government insisting on having valid grounds to inspect devices.

“We agree that customs officers should have the power to inspect digital devices, but Customs Minister Nicky Wagner is taking a dangerous approach,” says Rino Tirikatene, Labour’s Customs Spokesperson.

“The Minister is asking Customs to design the threshold for inspecting digital devices. In effect, she’s asking the very people who will be bound by the law to write it.”

For Tirikatene, this represents “sloppy law-making”, calling on an independent party to draw up the law given its impact on Kiwi privacy.

“We know from the dispute between Apple and the FBI that inspecting electronic devices is fraught,” Tirikatene adds.

“It’s not so simple as just asking for a passcode. In serious cases it’s going to involve cracking encryption. Is the Government ready for that?

“The test for any changes over how Customs operates is to ask whether it’s going to make travelling and exporting easier and whether it’s going to make the country safer. Nicky Wagner doesn’t seem to be asking these questions.”

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