In what is thought to be the first country to do this, travelers entering New Zealand who do not turn over their phone passwords during searches could be arrested, prosecuted and fined more than $3,000. This includes citizens and foreigners.
A New Zealand customs spokesperson said that the new fine is an appropriate remedy to balance individual’s privacy and national security. I am not sure what the balance is here.
In many countries law enforcement can examine your digital devices, but it is up to them to figure out how to hack into them if you don’t unlock them.
I suspect that this will become a bit of a trend.
Once law enforcement has the phone, unlocked, you have to assume that whatever is on the phone – from nude selfies to business trade secrets – has been compromised. There is no way to know whether that data is secure or not. Given most government’s security track records, this is probably a sad reality.
In the case of New Zealand, the customs agent has to have some undefined suspicion of wrong doing in order to invoke the new law.
Things that you can do to minimize the pain –
Large companies that are concerned about security are giving their employees burner phones and burner laptops when they travel abroad.
These same companies require employees to get approval for any data files that they load onto these devices.
For private citizens, this applies as well. Don’t take your laptop and buy a burner phone at Walmart or Best Buy and only load what you need.
Alternatively, store the data that you will need while abroad in the cloud, encrypted, download it while abroad, upload changes before you cross any borders and overwrite the deleted files with software like the free program CCleaner.
If you believe Snowden, intelligence analysts like sexy photographs and swapped them internally like baseball cards. I would suspect that practice applies to customs agents as well. If it isn’t there, they cannot do that.
It is likely that you will pass through customs unmolested – in the U.S. last year, customs only searched several tens of thousands of devices compared to the hundreds of millions of travelers – but if you are concerned, there are some easy and inexpensive steps that you can take.
Source: NY Times.