Big Brother at border creates big stock drama

Did New Zealand Customs official leak info from traveller's phone?

Very few people expected that the New Zealand law, which allows customs officials to inspect and copy data on travellers’ digital devices, would still be enforced months later. The only alternative is for the passenger to pay a hefty fine, but how is that really different from a bribe? Right from the start, with the new law introduced in October last year, human rights groups have been up in arms, but this week the wider world took notice as well.

A highly agitated male, sweating profusely, was selected from the line-up of passengers entering Kiwi country on Monday night from Singapore. When asked why he was looking so nervous, he explained that his wife was going into labour with triplets and he was rushing to get to the hospital asap. On request, he unlocked his devices, and let Angus from Customs spend a few minutes browsing through his phone; then the father-to-be was free to go.

A few nights later, the businessman (identified as CEO Michael Hou), nearly dropped his child when he saw the breaking news story on Bloomberg. “Ong Industrials chairman suffering from dementia and will be retiring in December,” ran the headline. The revelation has sent the stock plunging. Chairman Nick Ong was responsible for the highly lucrative merger with Baumgarten and Sohn, and under his leadership Ong Industrials also won the WEF prize for ‘Business of the Decade’.

How on earth did that leak out? After Elon Musk’s tweet and tiff with the SEC about taking Tesla private, the corporate world paid extra attention to how it conveys sensitive information, Hou included. The news about Ong’s health was a draft email he started composing to the shareholders. Hou didn’t lose his phone, it wasn’t stolen, there was no hack; but there was Angus from Customs. Border security is clearly not so secure after all!

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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