In a move that’s bound to spark some strong opinions, passengers arriving to New Zealand may have to pay fines, or face prosecution, if they refuse to reveal electronic device passwords.
It’s since a new Customs and Excise Act 2018 came into effect this week, meaning customs officers can now demand passengers to unlock their electronic devices at borders.
Anyone who refuses will be subject to prosecution and a fine of up to $3,000 USD.
The law applies to both New Zealanders and foreigners passing through the country’s borders — the majority arrive by plane.
While it will not be necessary for all passengers to unlock devices, or hand over passwords in order to enter the country, it’s a right customs officers now have, and will most likely be exercised during the ‘additional searching’ of some passengers.
New Zealand is the first country in the world to impose penalties for passengers that refuse to hand over phones, plus the password. However, in the US, United States border patrol officers are already allowed to search devices and confiscate some for additional searching.
While this may appear to be an invasion of passenger privacy, passengers shouldn’t expect to arrive to the border and have their ‘camera roll’ or ‘WhatsApp’ messages checked, for no reason other than the curiosity of a border control agent.
Theoretically, this law will only be exercised during circumstances whereby officers have taken a passenger for additional screening, which already includes a personal times, documents, etc.