Travelers visiting New Zealand might have to surrender their passwords for their digital devices at the border or face thousands of dollars worth of fines.
A new provision to the Customs and Excise Act went into effect Monday and allows border agents to demand travelers unlock any electronic device so it can be searched. Anyone who refuses could be fined more than $3,000 and have their devices confiscated. This law applies to all travelers visiting the country, including New Zealand citizens.
It was already legal for customs agents to search cellphones and other digital devices if they suspected evidence of criminal activity. But the law did not previously force travelers to unlock their devices for inspection.
A New Zealand Customs Service spokesperson said the change was necessary as "the majority of prohibited material and documents are now stored electronically." They also said that in 2017, border officials examined only 537 devices out of the 14 million travelers searched and don't expect inspections to increase with the new law.
But rights groups have denounced the new law, saying it's an invasion of privacy and that it doesn't give travelers any way to challenge the search.