Kiwis Want To Spy On All Communications, VPNs, And Be Able To Use Secret Evidence Against Youby Glyn Moody
May. 20, 2013
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Although New Zealand's decision not to allow patents for programs "as such" was welcome, other moves there have been more problematic. For example, after it became clear that the New Zealand intelligence service, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), illegally wiretapped and spied on Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand government announced that it would change the law so as to make it legal in the future to snoop on New Zealanders as well as on foreigners. Judging by a major new bill that has been unveiled, that was just the start of a thoroughgoing plan to put in place the capability to spy on every New Zealander's Internet activity at any moment.
Here's an excellent analysis of what the bill proposes, from Thomas Beagle, co-founder of the New Zealand digital rights organization Tech Liberty:
The TICS [Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security)] Bill is a replacement for the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004. This law forced communications providers (ISPs, telcos, data networks, etc) to provide "lawful intercept" capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB could access communications once they had a suitable warrant. The new bill expands and clarifies these requirements.As Beagle goes on to explain, this will have a number of implications, including a requirement to build backdoors into all telecoms networks:
From the Bill:Here's one way that could dramatically impact Internet users in New Zealand:A network operator must ensure that every public telecommunications network that the operator owns, controls, or operates, and every telecommunications service that the operator provides in New Zealand, has full interception capability.
It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.
Another clause could have major implications for Megaupload:
Network operators must decrypt the intercepted communications if they have provided the encryption, but there is no obligation to do so if the encryption is provided by others.One deeply troubling aspect is the following:
There is also a provision that allows the courts to receive classified information in a court case in the absence of the defendant or the defendant's lawyer. This applies to information that might reveal details of the interception methods used by the surveillance agency or is about particular operations in relation to any of the functions of the surveillance agency, or is provided as secret information from the surveillance agencies of another country. It can also be used if that disclosure would prejudice security of NZ, prejudice the maintenance of law, or endanger the safety of any person.As Beagle notes:
particularly offensive to civil liberties are the provisions for convicting people based on secret evidence. How can you defend yourself fairly when you can't even find out the evidence presented against you?
He concludes with an important point:
One must ask where the justification for this expansion of power is coming from. Has New Zealand already been materially affected by attacks on our communications infrastructure? It seems clear that while the GCSB may not be that competent at exercising the powers they already have, they have done a fine job of convincing the government that they can handle a lot more.That's a question that needs to be put to the governments of other countries, like the US and UK, that are also seeking to extend massively their ability to spy on their own citizens. What evidence do they have that such extreme, liberty-threatening powers are actually necessary, and will make the public safer, rather than simply being a convenient way for governments to identify whistleblowers who expose their incompetence and corruption, say, or to spy on those who dare to oppose them?
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