Since I live in the United States, I spend most of my time lambasting its government’s infringements on privacy. But the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on violating individuals’ privacy. Every government has an interesting in violating rights. The hot privacy violation at the moment is demanding access to cell phones. Cell phones are becoming more integrated into our daily lives every day, which makes them a treasure trove of personal information. Here in the United States the government has made several efforts to force cell phone manufacturers to include a backdoor it can access. New Zealand has taken a different approach. If you don’t hand over your password to law enforcers, you will be fined:
New Zealand privacy activists have raised concerns over a new law that imposes a fine of up to NZ$5,000 (more than $3,200) for travelers—citizens and foreigners alike—who decline to unlock their digital devices when entering the country. (Presumably your phone would be seized anyway if it came to that.)
The Southern Pacific nation is believed to be the first in the world to impose such a law.
As a general rule, especially when crossing borders, it’s best to travel with clean devices and access whatever information you need remotely when you arrive at your destination. For example, instead of storing contract information on your cell phone when traveling, you might consider have your contract information on a remotely accessible server. When you get to your destination, you can log into the server and grab the phone numbers you need when you need them. When you’re ready to leave the country, you can factory reset your phone so your call log is erased.
Such a plan isn’t bulletproof. A factory reset phone is suspicious in of itself. Unfortunately there are no silver bullets. Every defensive measure has a list of pros and cons. You have to decide which set of pros and cons best fit your situation.