ACT on ending ‘digital strip searches’

Yesterday 1 News:  ‘Digital strip searches’ at NZ airports force hundreds of Kiwis to surrender mobile and laptop passwords each year

New figures obtained by 1 NEWS have revealed Customs officials at New Zealand airports force up to two travellers every day to hand over their electronic devices and the passwords that access them.

New Zealand customs say they are looking for smugglers but admit they do sometimes take copies of travellers data and pass it on to Government agencies, including the police.

This is very contentious.It shouldn’t be happening without good cause and without proper authority.

Intelligence Investigations Customs general manager Jamie Bamford said depending on how much data is on a phone or laptop the search can be “quick and cursory” or a “little more extensive”.

“We can seize their device at the moment, and we have tools to break that encryption,” Bramford said.

“We do adhere to the privacy act and are guided by that.”

Since 2015, just over 1300 people have been subjected to digital strip searches at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports.

The most commonly searched nationality was New Zealanders, with 296 searched, followed by Chinese, with 269 searched, and then Taiwanese with 91 searched.

A bill is also currently before parliament to fine people who refuse digital strip searches to be fined up to $5000.

But from ACT today:  ACT ends the free-for-all on digital strip searches

ACT has secured a law change which will end customs’ free-for-all on digital strip searches, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Unrestricted power to demand people’s passwords and search their files is an affront to civil liberties, and it will inevitably lead to violations of privacy. New figures confirm over 1300 people have been digitally ‘strip searched’ since 2013.

“Customs practices are simply out of touch with modern reality. In the past, people would only pack a suitcase with a few paper documents, but younger generations often travel with all their personal files. Meanwhile, if a genuine criminal is determined to keep incriminating files, they’ll do it on cloud storage, not on their personal device.

“The good news is that ACT has worked to stop random digital searches. The current law does not require Customs to have cause to suspect offending to conduct a search. But ACT has convinced the Government to require reasonable cause for these searches, as part of a new Customs and Excise Bill currently before parliament.

“This will prevent countless New Zealanders and visitors from facing intrusive and unjustified searches.

It should never been allowed on such an unrestricted basis in the first place.


Leave a comment


  1. Real,strike against privacy breaches. Onya ACT

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  4th July 2017

      Good move ACT. Now do something about Immigration who are busy sending young tourists back on the next plane for no good reason except they take an arbitrary decision to disbelieve them. Some disgraceful injustices with absolutely no accountability are happening.

  2. Corky

     /  4th July 2017

    ”We can seize their device at the moment, ”

    “We do adhere to the privacy act and are guided by that.”( I can’t see how)

    Seems like a grey.

    But really, anyone coming through customs with incriminating material on their electronic devices deserve what comes to them. Data can be transferred other ways and picked up once you clear customs.

    However, will a law change really stop abuses.? I’m sure customs will work out ways to pretext searches for fun, or payback to difficult travellers.

    Once again, a major cause for this type of search rests at the feet of Muslims.

  3. NOEL

     /  5th July 2017

    Those intent on circumventing this practise have already worked out that downloading to your camera and deleting from phone or laptop is the simplist way..

    Haven’t really changed anything.

  4. NOEL

     /  5th July 2017

    Here’s an interesting take from Customs nearly three years ago.
    Nah it’s all ACT’s work.

    Click to access CandEAct1996Review-Powers%20and%20Obligations%20RIS.pdf

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th July 2017

      Hang on, that document wants to retain and confirm unfettered access to electronic devices.

      • NOEL

         /  5th July 2017

        Yup and you can see why. Remind me…. which option best suits ACT’s claims?

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  5th July 2017

          You are too obscure for me. Possibly ACT exaggerates on the number of digital searches being conducted but I don’t see any other points you are trying to make.


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