International Australian Airport May Seize Your Electronic Devices

Sydney Internation Airport

A trip that quickly turns into a traumatic experience upon return home and re-entry into Australia. James and Mandy, both Australian citizens, were compelled to surrender their phones at an Australian airport by border force officers.

They were instructed by the officer that the search was a random data security check and that they must surrender their mobile phones and passwords or be arrested.

He reported that they took their phones away from them without explanation. Officers were aware of the most personal facts of their lives. He got family photographs, passwords, bank accounts, and emails dating all the way back to 15 years ago.

“We had no idea what our rights were as I’m sure a lot of Australians probably wouldn’t.” – he said. 

He noted that, although they understand the cops are only performing duties, they would appreciate an explanation.

ABF (Australian Border Force)spokesperson stated that officers have powers to examine all goods at the border, including electronic devices. 

“The ABF exercises these powers in order to protect the Australian community from harm and deliver upon its mission to protect Australia’s border and enable legitimate travel and trade,” they said.

Barrister and member of the Australian Lawyers Alliance Greg Barns says the current laws meant Australians were not well protected when returning home. He added that this type of cases can lead to an abuse of power by ABF officers.

“In respect there are more limitations for them, but in a lot of cases … they would need to have a warrant,” Mr Barns said.

James said “I feel as though they should have to have some strong evidential grounds to do that and to invade our privacy like that,” which is very true if you are in their situation. Can you imagine going home then being stopped and asked for your phones and passwords?  

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