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New Zealand airport customs officials routinely demand passwords and perform "digital...

By William Gayde ยท 29 replies
Jul 4, 2017
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  1. According to an investigative report by New Zealand's 1 news, airport customs officials routinely force up to two travelers each day to give up their electronic devices and passwords for searching. According to the customs agents, the program is designed to look for smugglers by performing a "digital strip search" on the phones and laptops of travelers. This does not require a court order, but the agents do claim to adhere to New Zealand's privacy act.

    The searches can be quick or much more extensive depending on the level of danger perceived. One traveler was stopped for five hours and claims he was "made to feel like a terrorist" on his way home from Bali. Agents typically just peruse the data looking for any red flags but they have admitted to also copying it and passing it along to the government and police. According to the customs general manager, agents can seize travelers' devices at any moment and they have tools to break some types of encryption if it is encountered.

    Since 2015 more than 1,300 people have been stopped and searched at New Zealand's three biggest airports. Of these, just under 300 were actually from New Zealand. Chinese and Taiwanese travelers accounted for 360 searches as well. If travelers refuse to comply, a bill is currently being considered by parliament to fine them up to $5,000.

    The vast majority of travelers are on a strict timeline and nobody is going to plan in their itinerary for a five hour digital strip search. This leaves travelers with just two options: comply, or don't expect to fly. Government privacy activists recommend seeking legal advice before handing over credentials.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Greg S

    Greg S TS Evangelist Posts: 1,607   +443

    Giant no. I would lose my job if I handed over certain passwords as per policy. Sharing passwords is immediate grounds for dismissal.
  3. 9/11 was a massive success.
  4. Godel

    Godel TS Addict Posts: 173   +88

    This is pretty much par for the course in most western customs entries these days.

    If you have anything even moderately contentious on your phone or laptop, upload it to the cloud in encrypted form and reset your electronics to default install condition, then download your stuff when you get to your destination. You only have to remember one or two passwords.

    Alternatively a microSD card is easily concealed in your clothing or even in your cheek, and women have an additional place to hide things. Unless they have you seriously targeted you're unlikely to be subjected to a full forensic body search.

    It's only the unaware that have a problem with these procedures these days.
  5. You know they use body scanners at a lot of places, right? This is an excellent way to volunteer for an advanced screening.
    mizkitty and TheBigT42 like this.
  6. Godel

    Godel TS Addict Posts: 173   +88

    Designed to find weapons or large stashes of drugs. A microSD card behind my metal belt buckle would be invisible to most scans, and my mouth is already full of metal from fillings and crowns.

    Like I said, if they've already got you targeted for a full forensic search then you're probably screwed.
  7. Spoken like someone who has never walked through a TSA or equivalent checkpoint.

    First thing they do is have you remove any belts, pins, or other metallic objects and place it into a bin. Then they ask if you've got any metal that can't be removed (bone pins, etc.). If you do, they pull you aside and wand you and pat you down. If you look at them wrong or you beep too much, you get an "enhanced" patdown, which leads to advanced search if something is discovered.
  8. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,000   +2,295

    Yes, and not only in NZ.
  9. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,836   +679

    What? No problem...just let 100,000 Muslims in and give them stuff...then protect them in sanctuaries Come on NZ get with the program
    Wendig0 likes this.
  10. Ean Mogg

    Ean Mogg TS Booster Posts: 120   +52

    Umm What about the new phones with fingerprint scanners and the really new tech with retinal scanners are they going to ask for your fingers and eyeballs cause with the modern tech out now you'd need hours just to go through itunes and that's legal what about hidden partitions and plenty of other ways to hide illegal stuff on your tech ...bet they have better ways to pass their time lol
  11. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 902   +500

    As far as I know, the US has started to do the same for random people arriving in the States. I'm conflicted on this - we've been told for years to never give our passwords to anyone and now we're expected to hand it over to complete strangers with no guarantees on how it will be handled. I think I'd refuse and if that means I can never again enter the US then so be it. Or I'd set up a dummy FB account but I suspect they'd have ways of finding out that I have other accounts and then I'd be in bigger trouble.
  12. andy06shake

    andy06shake TS Evangelist Posts: 493   +161

    How can they demand passwords???

    When did this happen???

    My understanding was you do not need to provide your password to anyone, government bawbags included, just about worldwide. :(
  13. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,404   +3,799

    Nothing new ... when you fly to other countries you have submitted to their laws and policies regardless of your opinion; no different to those that come to the US. There was a time that a traveler could stay within their flights corridor and be excluded from these policies, a sort of "free zone" for travelers but that has long since passed in most countries. So again, the old saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" applies and the more you cooperate with their laws and traditions, the less likely you are to become a target .....
    Rippleman, JudasSheep and Raoul Duke like this.
  14. Rasta211

    Rasta211 TS Booster Posts: 221   +36

    Better not forget your passwords people!
    andy06shake likes this.
  15. Careful. CNN might dox you for this.
  16. It started about a month or so ago.
    andy06shake likes this.
  17. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,924   +712

    "If travelers refuse to comply, a bill is currently being considered by parliament to fine them up to $5,000."

    Is this meant to be misleading? So there's no penalty currently in place for people who refuse to comply but they are looking to make it a mandatory fine for those that do? So how exactly are people being "forced" if there's no penalty for non compliance at the moment?

    Now lets say this bill passes and you refuse and get a $5000 fine, will they let you in the country afterwards if you pay the fine? Do they just send you home if you don't, heck, will they let you leave without paying the fine?

    Air travel has become too much of a hassle, first they want more money for baggage, then they want to scan you revealing your bodies outline, what's next? Beating and dragging you of the plane kicking and screaming for no good reason? Oh wait...
  18. wastedkill

    wastedkill TS Evangelist Posts: 1,423   +350

    Just when you thought companies needed to protect data this happens, whats next an employee goes to one of these airports and all of a sudden Microsofts source code leake... oh..
    TheBigT42 likes this.
  19. From the Government of Canada
    "It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements"
    -that's quite blunt, but there you are. You want to go there, you comply, not even your government will back you otherwise
    Rippleman likes this.
  20. bob333

    bob333 TS Enthusiast Posts: 72   +33

    Time to stay away from New Zealand if someone is really not comfortable giving up their passwords.


    "If travelers refuse to comply, a bill is currently being considered by parliament to fine them up to $5,000."

    Really!!! New Zealand is nuts.
  21. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,286

    I'd be in trouble if that ever happened to me, I don't know my personal passwords out of my head, they're too long and nonsensical and I have to look them up. I travel to NZ at least every 2nd year and have never had any problems at customs. I think they target people who look like they have something to hide.
  22. TheBigT42

    TheBigT42 TS Maniac Posts: 324   +223

    You obviously have not been through an airport screening lately. You must remove you belt and shoes. Also they instruct you to remove every thing from your pockets.
  23. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox TS Rookie

    It's not for corporate espionage. It's a secondary level of search to dig further if there is a suspicion you aren't entering the country for the purpose you claim. For example, a student on a return tourist visa or with very little cash on their person may actually be coming to work illegally. They look at texts and emails you have on your devices in order to find any evidence of these illicit arrangement. And it works.
    Rippleman likes this.
  24. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,963   +577

    Simple. Don't bring the password with you on the flight. Store your data online encrypted and download when you get to your destination if need be.
  25. andy06shake

    andy06shake TS Evangelist Posts: 493   +161

    Then they may have the power to confiscate devices you are unwilling or unable to provide the password for. So your data may very well remain secure but you might lose your laptop, phone, or tablet.

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