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australian customs is empowered to take your cellphone and laptop for analysis

australian customs is empowered to take your cellphone and laptop for analysis

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Old Sep 10, 15, 11:54 am
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australian customs will take your cellphone and laptop for analysis

I arrived from Taipei to Sydney in business class with my mother for a visit to our old home. We are Australian passport holders. The flight was good the China airlines lady's new uniform looked bad but the service was good. We received a fast track voucher and we proceeded to the customs after picking up our luggage. We were asked to go though enhanced security check so we complied I was asked for my iPhone and laptop I was shocked I asked is that legal don't you need a court order? the homeland security guy said no and threatened me should I not be compliant, some code number I was shocked so I complied. They asked me for my passcode to my iPhone and laptop so I gave them. Then they took it away, I asked can I be present during my phone and laptop search as usually during a luggage search the person has to be present for a search. They said I cannot as they use a software to check for all illegal thing such as pornography that is deemed illegal in Australia and etc. I complied as I had no choice even asking them does this apply to Australians I mean it's a blatant infringement on privacy and I had privileged information on my phones email they said everybody had to go through it. After an hour and checking though all my files page by page and taking all my credit card and bank card and placing it on the table (I am guessing there is a roof camera that records everything) the lady came back and said I had no illegal items on my phone. My mother go so stressed she puked as she didn't know what was going on. The officer didn't really care. Yes the officers were all white and yes they were difficult but I still believe in Australia it's so said to see those with power not use it responsibly but nonetheless I hope for the future. Taking phones for checking is only done as I know in North Korea I wonder how in todays democracy this could happen. Anyways next time i am down under I am bringing a Nokia phone circa 2005. The officer even said thank goodness you have a iPhone if you had a Samsung Galaxy it would take much longer for our software to crack. I don't feel good after that as I went to buy my my mother a bottle of water and let her have a seat and rest. I feel destroyed by what happened. I doubt this was profiling for terrorism but because I am Taiwanese Australian.

Last edited by JDiver; Sep 13, 15 at 11:38 am Reason: Restore original post title
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Old Sep 10, 15, 12:04 pm
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This is what happens when the system is not properly thought out and checks and balances applied http://m.smh.com.au/national/customs-officer-confiscates-passengers-phone-and-then-uses-it-to-secretly-text-20150731-gip93t.html
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Old Sep 10, 15, 6:35 pm
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What a ridiculous thing to do.

It's impossible to prevent information from coming into Australia. If someone is trying to smuggle "illegal information" into the country they'll use the internet, not smuggle it in on the hard drive of a laptop.
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Old Sep 10, 15, 7:02 pm
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Originally Posted by Ashburton View Post
. Taking phones for checking is only done as I know in North Korea I wonder how in todays democracy this could happen.
This can happen at the border of any country.

NZ does it, Australia does it, UK does it, USA does it and I would be surprised if any modern western democracy does not have laws allowing them to do it.

Its not done as a matter of routine, but they certainly will do it if they suspect you are carrying objectional material, transporting stolen/cloned credit card details or SIM cards etc.

We don't know why they wanted to check you out, but what they did was perfectly legal and normal. Maybe your travel patterns seemed a little odd, maybe somebody you associate with is on their radar, or maybe they had bad information and you matched the profile they had been given.

Unfortunate, but really the only thing to do is forget about it and move on.
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Old Sep 10, 15, 7:43 pm
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The title of this thread is misleading. They "may" take those items for analysis, as they may in any country. It would be highly unusual for it to happen.
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Old Sep 10, 15, 10:49 pm
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Most countries have a customs system where every n-th passenger is selected randomly for a compliance check. This is the most rigorous and thorough check they do, and more for evaluating the effectiveness of their other processes. I had the good fortune to be selected for a "1 in a million" check once, which took 3 hours elapsed -- so it could be worse. And yes, this applies equally to citizens etc. and no court order is needed. On phones and laptops they are looking for a wide range of illegal items. Questioning the legality of the inspection or becoming nervous during it leads to suspicion that there is something to hide which only makes it last longer.
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Old Sep 11, 15, 3:51 am
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I fully aware of the national security needs. I am unhappy with the lack of transparency in the process and the lack of check and balances to make sure that all proper procedures are done and the usage of this procedure is done according to the law and guidelines set forth. I saw a broken system which infringes on the human rights and can easily be manipulated by the officer in charge. You don't give anybody a blank check and this is what happens when you do the abuse of the system becomes systemic and the real reason for using and allowing the law becomes nothing more then a means to an end. I felt humiliated and violated by what happened I have company info on my phone and my private chats. I am sure they have already access to my gmail and Twitter already so I don't know what the need is to check my iPhone. Most people use cloud services anyways. As for the check I was fully compliant with the officers wishes and he did acknowledge that in America you do need a court order unless it's national security involved but in Australia anybody citizen or not can be asked by an officer at the airport to hand over their phone and company phones and passwords to network just on a whim. This system is open to abuse that's is what I am worried about and it's a slippery slope. I didn't even get a document to confirm I had been checked and cleared I mean at least give me a ticket to say I was enhanced checked and cleared. Forget North Korea this is almost Soviet Union upon return from abroad you must debrief at the local border security. A slippery slope
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Old Sep 11, 15, 4:11 am
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The Australian border services should regulate and give proper guidelines and instructions for transparency and checks and balances should be applied to make sure there is minimal abuse in the system. freedom is very precious. I am annoyed because it is so easy to put in checks and balances and proper structure to this procedure yet they just botched the implementation and it's a mess that is neither helpful or logical. This policy is confusing for citizens and visitors. We already seen violations of the terms of use of the law by the customs/border(see previous post smh article) And it's only gonna get worse unless the stricter regulations are put in place.
I asked why I was stopped the officer replied if you have nothing to hide don't worry about it (it's the price you pay for freedom). I am thinking couldn't we get a better deal then this at a better price?
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Old Sep 11, 15, 4:18 am
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That's why I strongly suggest any traveller to not have any confidential information on their mobile devices. Or if it's absolutely necessary, in a hidden place that customs won't be able to detect... for semi-confidential stuff only..)

Actually, it's a known fact that several countries can (and will) install hardware sniffer in such cases - so even if you had 0 data with you, they'll be able to see it once you download or access it from an internet (or even intranet) later on - even after you've returned to your country of origin.

For a company taking security seriously, I'd never allow their business travellers to take any hardware with them outside of company perimeters.

The problem is, while this might work in theory, in real life, employees will do all sort of no-no's if you increase security to a level where it gets "uncomfortable".

Been there, seen it (way too many times)
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Old Sep 11, 15, 5:14 am
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Possibly they had taken your phone or laptop to see if you were planning on working whilst in Australia.

I'm not sure what the flight attendants' uniforms had to do with the story.
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Old Sep 11, 15, 5:18 am
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Originally Posted by Ashburton View Post
I fully aware of the national security needs. I am unhappy with the lack of transparency in the process and the lack of check and balances to make sure that all proper procedures are done and the usage of this procedure is done according to the law and guidelines set forth. I saw a broken system which infringes on the human rights and can easily be manipulated by the officer in charge. You don't give anybody a blank check and this is what happens when you do the abuse of the system becomes systemic and the real reason for using and allowing the law becomes nothing more then a means to an end. I felt humiliated and violated by what happened I have company info on my phone and my private chats. I am sure they have already access to my gmail and Twitter already so I don't know what the need is to check my iPhone. Most people use cloud services anyways. As for the check I was fully compliant with the officers wishes and he did acknowledge that in America you do need a court order unless it's national security involved but in Australia anybody citizen or not can be asked by an officer at the airport to hand over their phone and company phones and passwords to network just on a whim. This system is open to abuse that's is what I am worried about and it's a slippery slope. I didn't even get a document to confirm I had been checked and cleared I mean at least give me a ticket to say I was enhanced checked and cleared. Forget North Korea this is almost Soviet Union upon return from abroad you must debrief at the local border security. A slippery slope
A rant about something ridiculous.

You said you didn't get a ticket to say you were cleared. You were let in to the country. That tells you that you were checked and cleared.
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Old Sep 11, 15, 5:40 am
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Originally Posted by Ashburton View Post
The Australian border services should regulate and give proper guidelines and instructions for transparency and checks and balances should be applied to make sure there is minimal abuse in the system.
freedom is very precious. I am annoyed because it is so easy to put in checks and balances and proper structure to this procedure yet they just botched the implementation and it's a mess that is neither helpful or logical.
They have checks and balances.. How do you think they detected the inappropriate use of the phone in the article you linked?


This policy is confusing for citizens and visitors.
What is confusing about the fact you (and your possessions) may be searched (randomly) for contraband when entering any country?
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Old Sep 11, 15, 9:01 am
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Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
A rant about something ridiculous.

You said you didn't get a ticket to say you were cleared. You were let in to the country. That tells you that you were checked and cleared.
I think the complaint is about racism. Not likely but given the OPs tone I'm guessing he has a sense of entitlement.

It's a random check which means there is not going to be a specific criteria to go through. The OP also does not state whether or not he was using the phone through customs and immigration which is illegal in Australia.
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Old Sep 11, 15, 1:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
Possibly they had taken your phone or laptop to see if you were planning on working whilst in Australia.
As the OP is Australian, he is allowed to work and also cannot be denied entry.
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Old Sep 12, 15, 9:14 am
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Ashburton, your post would be a lot easier to read and comprehend if you actually broke it up into paragraphs.

Posts that are just one big mass of words are hard on the eyes, and are not conducive to those who might scan the threads, indeed can be a major turnoff to the casual reader.

Breaking it up into paragraphs makes your post easier to read, and might just result in some constructive feedback.

Just sayin'.

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