Friday, May 20, 2016

National wants Customs to be able to read your email

Thinking of travelling overseas ever? The National Party wants Customs to be able to force you to divulge passwords to all your electronic devices at the border, so they can paw through your files and read your email. Or just download it all. And National has already passed legislation allowing them to give that information to spy agencies for "sharing".

Supposedly Customs will only exercise this power on suspicion of criminal activity. But they'll be writing the rules themselves, and have expressed a strong desire or suspicionless searches, so that "threshold" will be deliberately easy to meet. And there is no question that it will be abused: Customs has been caught in the past abusing its border search and seizure powers for political bullying of cyberactivists, to get "brownie points" with the FBI, and to help police circumvent legal checks and balances on their search powers. And in practice, what they mostly examine digital devices for at present is to search for TV - the possession of which isn't a criminal offence. National would give these searches legal sanction, and allow Customs to force passwords to be divulged on pain of prosecution - and all so they can be local bully boys for Hollywood.

We should sya no to this expansion of powers. If Customs want access to digital devices to perform intrusive, wide-ranging searches, they should do what the police do: get a warrant.