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NZ Customs gains power to demand passwords and encryption keys

NZ Customs gains power to demand passwords and encryption keys

New law leaves some protections for data stored in cloud services

Customs officers have new powers to demand passwords and encryption keys

Customs officers have new powers to demand passwords and encryption keys

Credit: Dreamstime

The New Zealand Customs Service now has the power demand passwords to search the electronic devices of incoming passengers.

The Customs and Excise Act 2018, which was passed last year but came into effect this week, requires passengers to hand over passwords or encryption keys on request or face a fine up to $5000.

Customs can also copy information and also confiscate the device to conduct searches.

However, officers must have reasonable cause to suspect a traveller is involved in criminal acts in order to undertake such a search. Given that, the owner must provide access information that is reasonable and necessary to allow access to the device.

Information stored in the cloud retains some protections, however, as officers cannot initially search information accessible from the device, but not on the device.

If they have reason to believe the person is guilty of an offence, however, they can move to a "forensic search" which would include data stored in the cloud.

Technology used to assist such a search must have completed a privacy impact assessment overseen by the Privacy Commissioner.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards told Radio New Zealand he was "pretty comfortable" with the changes to the law.

There was a "good balance" between ensuring that borders are protected and that people were not subjected to unreasonable searches, he said.


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Tags New ZealandCustomsborder security. search and seizure

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