The Customs and Excise Act 2018, which came into effect this week, allows officials to insist travellers unlock any electronic device for searching.
Anyone who refuses can be prosecuted and fined up to $NZ5,000.
“The travelling public is unlikely to notice much difference at the border,” read a press release from the New Zealand Government.
New Zealand Customs Office spokesperson Terry Brown added to the New York Times: “We’re not aware of any other country that has legislated for the potential of a penalty to be applied if people do not divulge their passwords.”
Like in Australia, New Zealand Customs officers are already allowed to search digital devices for forensic examination, if they are suspected of containing evidence of criminal activity. The law, however, didn’t previously require travellers to open the devices for inspection by entering a password.
Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Thomas Beagle told Radio New Zealand: “Nowadays, we’ve got everything on our phones. We’ve got all our personal life, all our doctors’ records, our emails, absolutely everything on it, and customs can take that and keep it.”