Visitors to New Zealand could face an unwelcome choice: relinquish your cell phone password, or pay a $3,000 fine.
Travelers who refuse to provide the pass codes to their digital devices or unlock them with biometric data such as fingerprints will face fines of up to NZ$5,000 under New Zealand's new Customs and Excise Act of 2018, which came into effect on Oct 1.
The law, which applies to both foreign visitors and New Zealand citizens, authorizes officials to demand "codes, passwords, and encryption keys" or other information required to access an electronic device.
Officials must have a "reasonable cause to suspect" a device or its carrier to warrant a full digital search. However, rights advocates have already raised alarms that the new law condones intrusions of privacy.
"Nowadays we've got everything on our phones; we've got all our personal life, all our doctors' records, our emails, absolutely everything," Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Thomas Beagle told Radio New Zealand. "Customs can take that and keep it."
In a news release, Customs Department spokesperson Terry Brown said the new regulations would help improve border compliance, while assuring would-be tourists that "the traveling public is unlikely to notice much difference."