What? Customs wants your password when you cross the border… It will never work

facepalmIn an article today the NZ Herald reports that Customs wants a law introduced to force people to give up their passwords if required when they cross the border. Notionally, this is it to stop the import of illegal material traversing the border. What is interesting is that Customs wants no threshold to the law, in other words, you wouldn’t need to be suspected of anything, they could just make the demand. In this case though, the proposed law is a waste of time, because, Cloud.

The debate has been going on for a while now, and the Herald article really just updates where the law changes are up to after submissions.

Here is what the Minister says:

Powers that would require a person to provide a password or access to their electronic device will be useless if their material is instead stored online, Customs Minister Nicky Wagner admits.

“Yes, you can say, ‘Well, you can put it in the cloud.’ And if they had any sense that’s what they would do. But actually, we catch [people with illegal material on devices]. It is still necessary,” Ms Wagner said.

Then why on earth do we need a law that is totally irrelevant?

I store all my data in the Cloud. When I get on a plane to come to New Zealand I simply reset my devices to factory default. All data is wiped. When I land, Customs demands my password, I give them my device passwords. There is nothing on them. I leave. I restore my data back down from the Cloud and off I go.

The entire IT Community at this point is just doing a *face palm*.


  1. Absolutely Agree – this is ‘useless and bad law’. Policing resources and effort is wasted in the wrong area, while real criminal activities occur in the ‘cloud’ completely bypassing these silly types of border checks. Only a small number of naive criminals will be ‘caught’, and individually waste judicial time in being dealt with. This is real tax money being wasted here – that should be a criminal offence itself, IMHO. BTW, I don’t even take my laptop to the US anymore, because of the risk of root-kits being installed if ‘inspected’ that reside in firmware and are virtually impossible to erase. I take an iPad, and use a cloud virtual desktop, if ever needed (rare).

  2. Another thought provoking post, thanks Ian. Even investigating such an idea does sound like a waste of tax payer money. Presumably its less about logic, more about unacceptability of the laptop doing a one fingered salute as it sails through!

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