New Zealand Airports Customs Officials Performing 'Digital Strip Searches' Of Travelers' Electronics

from the putting-the-'awful'-back-in-'lawful' dept

Despite DHS hints that foreign airports were falling down on the “security theater” job, it appears a few customs officials are more than happy to engage in local versions of “extreme vetting.” New Zealand customs officials are way ahead of the DHS in this department, having turned airports into rights-free zones where nearly anything can happen… to travelers.

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.

Yes, somehow the stripping of someone’s electronic privacy still “adheres” to the privacy act. One would think “smuggling” would be routine criminal act, not worthy of “digital strip searches.” One would also think some sort of reasonable suspicion would be needed to proceed with this, as compared to anti-terrorist activities which usually result in rights-violation blank checks being issued to customs authorities.

The data shows more than 1,300 people have been subjected to these suspicionless “strip searches” since 2015, with less than a third of those being New Zealand citizens. The majority of those searched are foreigners and it appears visitors to the country should somehow expect delays of up to five hours thanks to this supposedly random vetting process.

And there is no option to refuse this additional, highly-invasive search. As Techspot reports, travelers refusing to hand over their electronic devices can be subject to fines of $5,000. That makes it a very expensive trip, especially for foreigners. Extra delays, extra costs, zero privacy — all in the name of keeping untaxed cigarettes out of NZ or whatever.

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Comments on “New Zealand Airports Customs Officials Performing 'Digital Strip Searches' Of Travelers' Electronics”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

Traveller 1: I’m a lawyer. My laptop’s files are protected by attorney client privilege.

Customs officials: Not here they’re not. Hand it over.

Traveller 2: I’m here to negotiate a trade deal with the New Zealand government. I cannot hand over the details of our negotiating positions.

Customs officials: You can and you will. Hand it over.

Traveller 3: My device contains corporate secrets. I’m not authorized to hand them over to ANYONE.

Customs officials: We’re not just anyone. Hand it over.

The US and other countries are demanding the right to search the cloud-based servers of multinationals anywhere in the world. It seems like standard practice will soon be to travel with an empty device, and your data on your own private cloud server.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My firms legal team will cover me if I follow company policy. The most Immigration can do is revoke my Visa or deny me access to the country in question. (And now charge my firm $5000 I guess). Any other solution results in far more potential damage as I may have access to customer data that the country of New Zealand does not have access to (with out a Court Order)

Keep in mind people like me are the ones they will never allow stuff like this to go that far, They don’t want strong legal teams pushing back because employees follow the legal teams advice. They want smaller players to give up and roll over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Note to the wise

haha, you actually think they can’t do this at customs too? Customs is literally designed from scratch for the sole purpose of investigating all contents shipped into or out of the country.

The only thing that sending it by mail will do is make it even more inconvenient to you when they confiscate it, since you’ll have to actually go to wherever they’re holding it to assist/get your stuff back.

Anonymous Hero says:

Good ol' days

I’ve seen the output of full body scanners at airports that show my whole body nude. I’ve heard of security officers wanting confiscate and decrypt devices.

What happened to the good ol’ days when I could just show up to the airport, show the security guards my penis, and board the plane without any incident or infringement on my rights?

Mr Big Content says:

This Could Never Happen In Teh USA

Our freedoms are safe, not like in these foreign places. You know why? Because of the Second Amendment. The Government knows, if it ever tried to trample on any of our IMPORTANT rights, our guns would be out and trained on them like a ton of bricks.

So don’t sweat the small stuff. We can sleep safe at night, with that ultimate guarantor of our rights close at hand, under that pillow.

dr evil says:

or just in case

I routinely carry an external hard drive that has multiple partitions with tens of thousands of individually encrypted files and two million images with random names and odd formats. Sadly, no one has checked it yet. Now the teeny, tiny memory card, that is well hidden …….. and a dummy in the phone.. good times

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