Customs seeks big brother powers

A proposal giving New Zealand Customs powers to compel anyone to provide passwords and encryption keys to their electronic devices is another step towards a surveillance society and should be strongly resisted, Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said today. 

“There are existing powers in search and surveillance law and other legislation which provide compulsion to disclose a password if someone passes through Customs and is under suspicion. 

“This is another example of New Zealand falling into line with its five eyes partners, the US, Australia, Canada and the UK and is another step towards the erosion of civil liberties and privacy. 

“It’s also a disturbing new piece of evidence that encryption as a business model is under threat. 

“In January, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion that a new Tory government would ban messaging apps that use encryption was described by the international tech industry and security experts as ‘living in cloud cuckoo land’ with a massive detrimental effect on the IT industry. 

“In New Zealand it could lead to stifling innovation of new businesses which provide encryption services and even dissuade people from travelling to a country with such draconian laws,“ says Clare Curran. 

“It is over the top and unwarranted. If the law already provides for the requirement to provide passwords and encryption keys when someone is under suspicion. Why does Customs need wholesale powers to compel all travellers?”