back to article New Zealand border cops warn travelers that without handing over electronic passwords 'You shall not pass!'

Customs laws in New Zealand now allow border agents to demand travellers unlock their phones or face an NZ$5,000 (around US$3,300) fine. The law was passed during 2017 with its provisions coming into effect on October 1. The security conscious of you will also be pleased to know Kiwi officials still need a “reasonable” …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mission Creep

    What's the number of devices searched in America by comparison? If you're just transiting through, can a forced-search still happen? Probably...

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Mission Creep

      If you're transiting through a US airport, then you're considered to be entering the country and are subject to all the checks that come with that process, including customs and immigration. I bitterly remember standing in line at LAX after a 12 hour flight, to explain to a frankly incredulous immigration officer that I didn't have an address in the US because I was never planning to enter the blasted place.

      If you're transiting through NZ - from one international flight straight on to another - currently you are not required to go through NZ customs. There's been no announcement of any plan to change that.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Mission Creep

        Although I can't think of many international routes that would transit in NZ.

        Narnia to Middle Earth perhaps?

        1. Mike Henderson

          Re: Mission Creep

          For example, Vancouver / San Fransisco / Los Angeles to Adelaide or Perth - you can't do it non-stop, and a transit stop in Auckland is waaaay better than Sydney or Melbourne.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: Mission Creep

            @Mike Henderson - That direction makes sense, but the announcement seems standard on all flights into Auckland. I was arriving from HK, "If you have an onwards international flight...", so I asked the cabin crew, "Do you have many flights to Antarctica?

            1. Michael Hoffmann

              Re: Mission Creep

              You'd be amazed: onward from Auckland to Christchurch, get your gear and south you go in a luxurious C-17 or C-130 (I did it in an ancient C-141).

              1. Tomato Krill

                Re: Mission Creep

                Yes but then if your conmection was domestic then you'd expect to pass customs at the first port of entry anyway?

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          One of the few ways to get to Antandectica.

        3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          "Although I can't think of many international routes that would transit in NZ."

          Tonga, Samoa and Eastern Australia for inbound. Outbound to half the world.

        4. Fungus Bob Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          "Narnia to Middle Earth perhaps?"

          One does not simply walk into Mordor...

          1. Aqua Marina Silver badge

            Re: Mission Creep

            And yet everyone forgets, Frodo ended up simply walking into Mordor!

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Mission Creep

              @Aqua Marina - "And yet everyone forgets, Frodo ended up simply walking into Mordor!"

              Not quite, Frodo was carried while unconscious. Sam walked, but it wasn't simple.

          2. Ken 16 Silver badge

            Re: Mission Creep

            Not with a mobile phone on you, anyway

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Finish the quote

            "One does not simply walk into Mordor when you can call giant eagles to take you there in a fraction of the time, you hairy toed halfwit"

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Finish the quote

              "One does not simply walk into Mordor when you can call giant eagles to take you there in a fraction of the time, you hairy toed halfwit"

              Unless of course you don't want to announce your presence...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mission Creep

        > "I bitterly remember standing in line at LAX after a 12 hour flight, to explain to a frankly incredulous immigration officer that I didn't have an address in the US because I was never planning to enter the blasted place."

        Um, the US requirement in your case was the same as making a vist to the US, basic customs. hat does not require you to have a US address. Are you sure that's what really happened? Seems like US Customs might have better things to do than inexplicably and needlessly harass international travelers.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          The US does require you to have a US address when entering (or transiting) because the blasted ESTA is required even during transit. You can only have an ESTA if you provide a US address. Provide the airport's address instead. When they look incredulous, point out that you're only transiting.

        2. Spazturtle Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          "Um, the US requirement in your case was the same as making a vist to the US, basic customs. hat does not require you to have a US address. "

          Yes it does, when you enter the US you are required to tell them where you will be staying, be it at a friend's house or at a hotel they don't care, they just want to know were they can find you.

        3. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Mission Creep

          @Big John:

          "Seems like US Customs might have better things to do than inexplicably and needlessly harass international travelers."

          Seems like you've never had to deal with US customs. (And lets not get started on the friggin TSA)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mission Creep re veti

        I fondly recall two separate incidents at Miami International Airport, a.k.a. Hell on Earth.

        Both times I was working for a newspaper in Jamaica. The then owner also owned a large hotel chain and Air Jamaica. When the paper started up it was a weekly which went to twice and then three times a week. It didn’t have a press of it’s own; senior staff (that’s me, as I was networks/prepress chief, or one of the senior editors) took the film from the imagesetter in a big box up to a printing operation in Miami (actually Miramar, but close enough) and it was printed there and the paper would fly down on Air Jamaica.

        So once the immgration guy took a look a the entry form, and noticed that I’d listed the address of the print shop, not a hotel. He really did’t like the idea that I wouldn’t be staying in a hotel, because I came in on the first Air Jamaica flight in the morning (07:00 departure, theoretically, but like most things it operated on Jamaica Time...) and was scheduled out on the last flight back (20:30, which usually meant 21:00. Jamaica Time, y’know.) with the paper in the cargo hold, so I’d be at the print shop all day and wouldn’t be staying at a hotel. He refused to let me in. I moved to a different line. The immigration guy there asked me why, I told him, he shrugged, said that Rodrigues was like that, apologised and stamped my (UK) passport. (Memo: don’t try to enter the US at MIA on a Jamaican passport. You will be sorry.)

        The second time it was a customs guy who had a problem. He really, really, REALLY wanted to know what was in the box of film and was most disappointed when all he could find was sheets of develloped film, tabloid size, enough for 60 pages, 8 in full colour. He had a look through my laptop bag, and was delighted to find my Irish and Kenyan passports, then disapointed again to find that they had the same name and address as my UK passport. Aparently he thought that he’d uncovered some kind of film smuggling ring or something. Then he discovered my old UK, Kenyan, and Irish passports, tied together with rubber bands, which were in a side pocket. And disappointed again when I showed him the clipped corners and the ‘not valid’ markings. One of his supervisors wondered over and told him to let me go. He knew, though the customs guy didn’t, who I worked for and some of the Big Boss’ hotels were in Florida. It’s not a good idea to piss off the tourist industry in Florida.

        1. officerbill

          Re: Mission Creep re veti

          Flying round trip from Jamaica to Miami (well known narcotics transport locations) on the same day to make a drop off & pick up at an obscure business and traveling with three different passports, it practically screams "look at me". Of course you're going to get looked at pretty closely, what else would you expect?

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Mission Creep

      What's the number of devices searched in America by comparison? If you're just transiting through, can a forced-search still happen? Probably...

      I've been a few times while they've been aloowed to snoop - often with a couple of phones and a number of laptops or tablet type devices. So far I've never been asked anything about them.

      I do have some colleagues who simply have "an America phone" now, which is all they'll take with them when they go, due to worries over what might be added to a device while out of their posession. It does make me wonder what'll happen when all the different nations implanted spyware begins to fight for control over a device :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mission Creep

        If you use your phone for work at all, it's not worth the risk of leaking data. I've heard (not sure if I believe) that they have tools to dump data from an android or iphone in under 60 seconds for later analysis.

      2. iRadiate

        Re: Mission Creep

        Factory reset when you land. With android it takes just a few minutes once you have WiFi to get back to where you were. With nova launcher even my user experience can be restored from a backup.

        I'd love to see the expression on the immigration officer's face when he switches on my phone and has to configure it from scratch only to find there's nothing on it.

        1. RonWheeler

          Re: Mission Creep

          was my thought too. But what a pain. Real crims would encrypt it in a hidden dump so this is just more theatre.

          1. Updraft102 Silver badge

            Re: Mission Creep

            /It would be hard enough to find a needle in a haystack on a phone, but what about a laptop? Mine has a 1TB SSD... even at its maximum speed of 550MB/sec, it would take more than a half hour to dump my entire drive if they want to go through it in detail later. How many other devices come through in a half hour? It's unworkable to try to do, and it's equally as unlikely that someone can go through that enormous file system and try to find the one thing that they don't even know they're looking for. Are they going to verify that every file listed as a given type really is what it says? Are they going to watch every video and view every image to make sure they're (a) actually videos and images, and (b) that they don't contain some content they think is bad? Do they have any idea how many files can be on a 1TB drive?

            Are they going to verify that all of the unallocated space on my hard drive actually is unallocated and not a hidden encrypted volume? Are they going to verify that the size of all my visible partitions plus the unallocated space adds up to the total size of the SSD?

            That's assuming they don't try to install a rootkit or some other thing. My laptop runs Linux. Will their rootkit be able to work with that? Of course, any electronic device that was out of your possession and out of your custody even for a short time has to be considered suspect... does this effectively render the item devoid of value? Shouldn't they have to pay for making my laptop forever untrusted because of what they may have implanted in it?

          2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            "real criminals"

            You may imagine that real criminals are devious masterminds. But they are just ordinary people who are doing naughty thing. Some are even of less then ordinary intelligence.

            Taking at face value https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-45731642

            Three Scotsmen recently tried to fly assorted drugs by drone into Perth Prison. The drone was found by a prison officer.

            It had a video camera and it had filmed the men's faces, the drugs, their house door with the number on it, and their car, while they were loading the stuff in and then presumably taking the drone to the prison.

            Presumably they did not know this.

            The pictures are quite good quality as home video by my standards, but I'm not a connoisseur.

            Two men in the video are now in jail and one apparently hasn't been recognised yet, so, if he looks familiar, feel free to call the Police Scotland Clypeline.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mission Creep

          > Factory reset when you land.

          Does nothing for APT's, which is what most US border agents are given for use.

          Not sure what the Chinese are using these days.

        3. mtnz

          Re: Mission Creep

          Why?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NZ are now the Lord of the Rings

    ... sorry ;)

    1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: NZ are now the Lord of the Rings

      You don't want to bring laptops or cell phones anyway. It's just that I don't want to hand over the password to my e-cigarettes.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have fun!

    I'm not telling you the code to unlock my phone, I refuse to pay the fine, & you can knock yourself dead trying to break into the phone... since it'll be a burner phone purchased expressly for the purpose of thwarting all the 1984 levels of snoopy bastards sticking their noses in where they don't belong. And once you DO manage to weasel your way past the lock bits, the only thing on the phone will be an mp3 titled "Confession" of NWA's "Fuck the police!" to amuse everyone in earshot.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Have fun!

      That sounds like a very expensive way to make a point. Why don't you just stay away?

      I'm happy to unlock my phone for any reasonable authority who asks politely. It's a phone. What do you expect they'll find? By this time they've already got my name, address, biography and family details.

      Seriously, I've never seen so much fuss made about a provision that - by current international standards - is still incredibly mild (by which I mean, you're subject to way more intrusive searches if you fly into, say, the USA or Australia, where they will simply seize your device - indefinitely - if you refuse to unlock it on demand). What the hey do some of you people keep on your phones, anyway?

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        Why don't you just stay away?

        I won't have that option, because I live here.

        I am intending to take the same attitude, in the unlikely event I am asked to unlock my phone for the customs people.

        I will be telling them no, then having my lawyer ask to see their evidence of "prior suspicion" if they decide to fine me.

        Five grand is a lot of money, and I'd rather give it to my lawyer.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        >What the hey do some of you people keep on your phones, anyway?

        Emails, appointments and contact details of customers I am visiting that might be considering buying my foreign product over a home grown competitor. So I should assume that they will be handed over to my local competitors in the name of national economic security

        Evidence that I have read an article on gun control which means the red-necked "patriot" on the desk is going to invent some reason to block me, or at least keep me waiting for 12 hours for further questioning.

        Photos of my daughters on the beach which are going to be passed around by some police officers before being released to their wider "image sharing network"

        In a way it's funny that the "trade craft" of visiting our major Nato ally is now something like visiting East Berlin in the early 80s

        1. IglooDude
          Big Brother

          Re: Have fun!

          "Evidence that I have read an article on gun control which means the red-necked "patriot" on the desk is going to invent some reason to block me, or at least keep me waiting for 12 hours for further questioning."

          Law enforcement folk (particularly the urban/metro variety) tend to favor a disarmed civilian population as well. So if it is any consolation, my phone's articles regarding things like 'best ammunition for various pistol calibers' is as likely to get me blocked/delayed as yours are, for fundamentally similar reasons.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Have fun!

          In a way it's funny that the "trade craft" of visiting our major Nato ally is now something like visiting East Berlin in the early 80s

          New Zealand is not anybody's "major Nato ally". Perhaps you are getting it mixed up with some other country. At least NZ doesn't subject you to mugshots and fingerprinting (fingerprinting! Seriously, why?) on entry, like some "major Nato allies" I could name.

          If you think that the officials are going to be passing around your family photos for their titillation and amusement, then... I suggest you lobby for them to get a pay rise so that they can afford broadband. Believe me, there's better material already online.

          More to the point, what do you expect you'll find on it when you get it back?

          If you honestly believe that the authorities would do that just to get at you personally, then sorry to break it to you, but you've already lost. Not just the battle, you've lost the whole war, and your country is officially a shithole now. Or maybe you're just paranoid.

          In a previous role I had accounts on my phone which allowed access to security and audit documentation for a sensitive UK Government IT system. I personally wouldn't have cared who saw it except that I'd signed some paperwork that would let me be jailed if I made them available.

          Then you'll be pleased to note that the phone is examined in flight mode. What you have "access" to is literally neither here nor there. Unless you're rash enough to store local copies on the phone itself.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Have fun!

            I was referring to the previous post on visiting the USA,

            Several US police officers and CBP have been convicted of sharing personal nude images taken from phones and distributing child porn.

      3. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        "I've never seen so much fuss made about a provision that - by current international standards - is still incredibly mild ..."

        Yes, we're not as bad as the worst ones so it must be acceptable.

      4. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Have fun!

        What the hey do some of you people keep on your phones, anyway?

        You may have reworded it, but you basically just wrote "if you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear."

        Besides, if we don't keep sensitive data on our phones, what point is there to look at them?

        As an earlier poster said.. mission creep... and with todays 150 character attention span population, the frog in the slowly boiling water is easy to achieve.

        1. arctic_haze Silver badge

          Nothing to hide?

          Do you really share your bank passwords with anyone who politely asks?

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        "What do you expect they'll find?"

        More to the point, what do you expect you'll find on it when you get it back? In your case, you appear to expect nothing extra. That view isn't shared by others here.

      6. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        "It's a phone. What do you expect they'll find?"

        Besides the possibility of them planting spyware on the phone, the US have apps that will grab everything off the phone and upload it to the gigantic NSA database which will keep it forever and cross reference it with the rest of that database. Mission creep may well mean NZ eventually doing something similar.

        Note that the US don't just read the files on the phone - they suck down everything that the phone can reach. Every web and cloud application that the phone has the codes for.

        That means not only your personal information, but information that your friends have given you access to. If a friend has posted extremely private and personal information in a locked post that they have only given a few close friends access to, that information is now on the NSA database. Personally I have no intention of betraying my friends.

        1. Magani
          Big Brother

          Re: Have fun!

          Mission creep may well mean NZ eventually doing something similar.

          And who's a member of Five Eyes again?

      7. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Have fun!

        > Seriously, I've never seen so much fuss made about a provision that - by current international standards - is still incredibly mild (by which I mean, you're subject to way more intrusive searches if you fly into, say, the USA or Australia, where they will simply seize your device - indefinitely - if you refuse to unlock it on demand). What the hey do some of you people keep on your phones, anyway?

        I guess if you have nothing to say, there is nothing to hide. Listen, if it's not too much trouble, please send us a nightly report of whomever you associated with that day, your exact location by the minute, a copy of any photo you took (remember to tick the box so we get the location with it please).

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

          Re: Have fun!

          I wonder if Customs would like a copy of my personal virus collection, helpfully packaged in various ways including self-extracting zipfiles...

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have fun!

        In a previous role I had accounts on my phone which allowed access to security and audit documentation for a sensitive UK Government IT system. I personally wouldn't have cared who saw it except that I'd signed some paperwork that would let me be jailed if I made them available.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Have fun!

          "I'd signed some paperwork that would let me be jailed if I made them available."

          I could tell you my password, but then I'd have to kill you.

      9. xanda
        Mushroom

        Re: Have fun!

        "...I'm happy to unlock my phone for any reasonable authority who asks politely..."

        Are you deliberately being stupid for kicks or are you just a naive exhibitionist? Please state what you think a 'reasonable authority' is; by definition it is not one where their agencies seek to pry into areas where they have no right or cause to in the first instance - that is a most unreasonable thing to do indeed.

        In the case of the NZ law using the "reasonable cause" argument: this is both erroneous and dangerous because it is a weasel clause. It can - and will be - abused by the very agencies required to implement it, whether polite or not.

        "...It's a phone. What do you expect they'll find?"

        Is the wrong question.

        Of course terrorists and criminals will always have something hide - BUT SO DO THE REST OF US. The concepts, in case you haven't heard, are called privacy and dignity and many people have a strong sense of what that means for themselves .

        So it doesn't matter if it's a phone, personal diary, family photo album etc. the state has no business in arbitrarily violating their sanctity - which this law undoubtedly grants license to do.

        ... By this time they've already got my name, address, biography and family details. ..."

        And also where you like to shop, what restaurant you visited last Saturday, when you last got a parking fine and so on and so forth. What of it? None of this stuff is remotely private so it makes no difference whether the state, journalists or other nosey-parkers know or not.

        ...Seriously, I've never seen so much fuss made about a provision that - by current international standards - is still incredibly mild...

        So in other words: everybody else is doing so we can too. From a statement like this it might appear you are perhaps a NZ politician responsible for said legislation.

        Nobody would realistically suggest that state security agencies refrain from following bona fide intelligence in helping us to remain safe, but granting free reign without restraint, as this law basically does, is bad for everyone - authorities included.

      10. Craigie

        Re: Have fun!

        'I'm happy to unlock my phone for any reasonable authority who asks politely' ah the old 'nothing to hide' argument.

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