Privacy fears over customs centre

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 19:41 02/09/2011

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A new operations centre that records the details of people coming in and out of the country has opened in Auckland today.

It is the first centre of its kind outside of the United States and has been established just in time for the Rugby World Cup.

The Customs' Integrated Targeting and Operations Centre will record whether flights have been paid for by cash or credit, whether special seats have been required and what meal requests travellers have ordered, TV3 news reported.

All travellers' details would be automatically recorded and would be kept for 28 days.

Security experts warned the automatic recording system was an invasion of privacy.

But a statement from the Government said the ITOC would enhance the government's ability to protect the safety and security of New Zealanders through more effective border control, 24 hours a day.

Prime Minister John Key said today: "Anyone who is innocent has nothing to fear".

Key opened the intelligence centre with Customs Minister Maurice Williamson.

"Everything needed to determine risks presented by people, goods, or craft are now brought together at the ITOC," Williamson said.

The minister said the automated targeting tool was used to screen passengers "posing a potential risk".

The centre would be staffed by Immigration New Zealand, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry and Maritime New Zealand. Information recorded could also be shared the Secret Intelligence Service and with other countries.

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