Customs Minister Nicky Wagner has issued a discussion paper on changes to the Customs and Excise Act.”The Government initiated the review of the Customs and Excise Act due to the legislation’s inability to efficiently respond to changes in technology and business practice.”
However Nicholas Jones at the NZ Herald says Customs is seeking new powers including requiring a person to provide a password or access to their electronic devices.
The agency has also floated other possibilities including collection of biometric information and making passengers empty their pockets if asked by an officer, even if there is no reasonable suspicion. Currently, when Customs examines a person’s electronic device the owner is not legally obliged to provide a password or encryption key.
It is relatively uncommon for people to refuse to provide this, Customs notes in the discussion paper, but “the number who refuse may increase as technology continues to develop”. If people do refuse, Customs notes it “can mean we have no way of uncovering evidence of criminal offending even when we know the device holds this evidence”.
It appears to me that there needs to be an attitude adjustment in Customs, where the prevailing mood seems to be that in order to pass through their system, citizens must yield every traditional right to individual freedom that ever existed, including the very important one of never being stopped and searched without good reason.
If the Police are not permitted these powers, why should they be granted to Customs?
Meanwhile in Quebec, a man (Alain Philippon) has recently been charged with obstructing border officials by refusing to give up his smartphone password. The Canadian Customs wouldn’t say why Philippon was selected for a smartphone search. He has been released on bail, and will have to return to court in May.
Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, said the issue of whether a traveller must reveal a password to an electronic device at the border hasn’t been tested by a court.
Here we have yet another situation where the National Party dances to the tune of the bureaucracy rather than the people who voted for it. Nicky Wagner should be taking a firm stand against suspicion-less searches. Will she? Unlikely. The National Party has frequently proved it doesn’t give a damn for such issues and my money says these losers will cave in to an out of control bureaucracy once again.