New Zealand Customs Authorities Can Now Demand Device Passwords, and May Copy and Review Data

Asha McLean, ZDNet:

The New Zealand Customs Service this week received new powers at the country’s borders, including the ability demand a password off a passenger to search their “electronic device”.

Customs officers have always been able to search a passenger’s laptop or phone, but the changes to the Customs and Excise Act 2018 now specifies that passengers must hand over their password.


Customs now also has the right to copy, in addition to review, the data stored on the device, and can also confiscate it to conduct a further search.

New Zealand isn’t the first place I’d think of as becoming a draconian country for visitors, but I was clearly myopic. If you’re travelling these days, it’s advisable — if you have the means — to travel with devices containing nothing more than their operating systems, and use a well-secured cloud service to store any files you might need while in transit, including your keychain. While New Zealand’s revised customs act does not permit them to download remote data, they could obtain a copy of your keychain which is typically encrypted with the same user account password you would have provided.

You can change your keychain password to be different if you wish, but you will likely need to reenter its password frequently, and it likely won’t protect you against legislation like this — but, alas, I am not a lawyer.