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The new Customs and Excise Bill means Customs will no longer be able to demand that people entering the country hand over the passwords to their devices without reasonable cause.
Although, is that a change? There seems to be some confusion about what we believed the law was and what it actually was, as opposed to this law. So what was the law, and what does this bill mean? So they already have been doing that.
This law brings in a new authority for them to penalise people for not handing over the passwords but has been cut down from the original Customs demand, which they wanted carte blanche. So is it a good tweak, a good compromise, between privacy invasion and the need for security?
So who decides what reasonable cause is? They can only do it for relevant offences, which means to do with importing forbidden goods. So, in effect then, they have got carte blanche. I think that bringing up terrorism is a mistake. This law is specifically designed not to allow it to be used for tracking down people accused of terrorist offences.
This law is only for relevant offences, which is importing forbidden goods. So nothing to do with terrorism. Nothing to do with pornography. It could be to do with pornography because that can be a forbidden good. Customs seems very keen on becoming part of the security apparatus.
We see this as them wanting more powers to collect more information for the police because there are this controls at the border. And the police have to go to do this, they would have to go and get a warrant.
That may be true for you, but other people have other issues as well. For example, that information which they may be taking can include personal information in some. Because, of course, the way we put our lives digitally online, we now have everything on our laptops, everything on our phones, all our personal medical records, etc.
And we have all the communications with other people as well. You may not be involved with political activism, but I am, for example. Does that mean we should be taking this information from laptops and making it available? We do have information to keep private from our government.
Also, more to the point, that this is not about preventing serious crime. This is about the Customs wanting this very, very invasive power to take all our personal information to stop people importing illegal goods. They get your password, they look at it, and they find nothing, they move on.
And the Customs were actually deliberately stopping those people when they came into the country. Not so they could get information about what they might be importing, but so that they could get information about all the contacts they had, and then they could pass onto the police.
Now, that was going beyond the law at the time, and we see that as probably an ongoing thing is what they would like to keep on doing. It gives them more power to do it. So what changes would you like to see to the current set-up?
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