The New Zealand Spy Bill Amendment Seeks To Expand Digital Surveillance of New Zealanders.
Big brother surveillance is once step closer for New Zealanders as the government seeks to expand the powers of the The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – New Zealand’s spy agency. The amendments would give the normally foreign-focused GCSB powers to spy on New Zealand citizens, effectively transforming it from a foreign intelligence agency into a domestic one without any justification being given.
This change in legislation is geared towards allowing the government to legally spy on their own citizens in addition to “foreigners” – and, very importantly, allows them to legally pass this information along to other countries. The New Zealand GCSB is part of the original Echelon spy group which also includes The United States, Australia, The United Kingdom and Canada. The amendment to the law will make it legal for intercepted information related to New Zealanders and permanent residents to be passed on to foreign agencies in these countries.
This Bill is a sign of a global assault on democratic freedoms and our rights to privacy. The change in law coincides with revelations by former US National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee Edward Snowden revealing the mass digital surveillance carried out by the US government. Snowden leaked information showing that the US government was intercepting massive amounts of telephone metadata as well as the PRISM and Tempora internet surveillance programmes. PRISM is a clandestine electronic surveillance system that aims to collect vast amounts of personal electronic data such as email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social networking details. Large multi-national corporations such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox and Microsoft have been revealed as participating in the surveillance scheme.
The change in law proposed by the amendment to the Bill is effectively an endorsement by the New Zealand government of digital surveillance schemes like PRISM and shows the incredible control the US exercises over the spying activities of other governments, including our own. The amendment is being downplayed by the government but has been attacked by various groups and organisations such as The Law Society, InternetNZ, Internet Entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and Telecommunications Companies.
Our right to privacy and privacy of correspondence is infringed upon by the changes to the GCSB law. We believe that all New Zealand internet users should be free to use the internet without fear of government oversight and surveillance. We do not – and will not – support any law that diminishes basic human rights and, therefore, find this Bill repugnant and insulting at it’s very core. The New Zealand government should be ashamed of suggesting such a thing and we will oppose it totally.
- IT Itch Managing Director Christopher Berg
It is difficult to identify the pressing and substantial concerns that the bill purports to remedy or address . . . extensive and pervasive amendments to the state’s power of surveillance should not be passed by Parliament lightly nor without the fullest extent of debate possible. The Law Society does not consider that sufficient justification has been provided for the proposed reforms.
- New Zealand Law Society
InternetNZ does not support those provisions of the Bill that, taken together, empower the Minister to direct the Bureau to intercept communications and access information infrastructures without meaningful, adequate and independent oversight . . . More robust checks and balances need to be introduced so that Internet users’ privacy is adequately protected from intrusive State action. As it stands, the GCSB Bill lacks sufficient legal safeguards for Internet users’ right to privacy . . . Further, while the governments’ capability to intercept communications has advanced under the Internet, it appears that the development and application of human rights law by governments to this changed environment has not.
The proposed GCSB bill is a betrayal of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights. As the New Zealand Law Society has quite rightly pointed out, it is not a clarification. This new GCSB bill is totally unjustified in a free and democratic society.
- Kim Dotcom