New Zealand new spying law passed

November 10, 2013

Earlier this week, New Zealand parliament passed into law a bill with only two votes that will give the country’s secret service agencies immense powers to compel telecom companies to provide interception of all electronically transmitted communications to assist intelligence agencies in intercepting and decrypting phone calls, texts and emails. According to official communication, the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security bill is meant to safeguard public safety and security. The Government says it is necessary to replace a decade-old law known as the Telecommunications Interception Capability Act of 2004 and to keep pace with technology it will be done by ensuring that it is technically and practically possible for surveillance agencies to intercept communications, where there is a warrant or other lawful authority to do so. By introducing a formal framework to ensure the security of telecommunications networks is New Zealand government priority. The new legislation supports New Zealand government’s assertion that all digital communications must be accessible by government security agencies.

In addition, service providers with more than 4,000 customers over half a year period will be required to provide full communications interception access to government security agencies, the new law also gives the Government Communications Security Bureau sweeping powers in telecom network equipment upgrades and new deployments. The new legislation places different requirements on network operators depending on how many customers they have. Full interception capability will apply to the bigger network operators like Telecom and Vodafone. Others must be “intercept ready” and “intercept accessible”. Among the obligations include allowing for equipment to plug into the network and ensure staff are trained and have acceptable security clearance. However, opponents have described the bill as draconian and they fear it will limit Internet freedom and impinges on privacy and civil rights. The bill has been slammed by global businesses such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google as being in conflict with United States privacy legislation although the government said there are administrative processes in place to prevent legal conflicts.

The new legislation would now compel United States providers in providing assistance to New Zealand security agencies with interception. The new law has two main components and that is interception and network security. According to my friend in New Zealand, the new law will replace other legislation and would compels telecommunications firms and online service providers to give surveillance agencies namely Government Communications Security Bureau, Security and Intelligence Service and the police access to their clients’ communications. Telecom operators will be required to consult with Government Communications Security Bureau when developing new infrastructure and networks to lessen the risk of cyber attacks and espionage. The GCSB will now have oversight of the design and operation of New Zealand’s communications networks and will have sweeping powers to veto any decision made by the network operators that might impact on security and limit their ability to spy as they see fit. Most people believe that narrow, targeted, proportional rules should have been the preferred legislation over blanket rules that the potential to infringe on civil liberties and constrain economic growth. The new law will require Internet providers outside New Zealand to intercept services and provide the contents of people’s emails to local law enforcement and security officials. Me think that New Zealand’s new law is a confirmation of long held view that Kiwi land is a committed member of global spy networks of the Five Eyes that include New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia and Canada. The government’s new law will no doubt extend the powers of spy agencies in New Zealand and any hopes that were there following Edward Snowden revelations there would be no improved oversight.

Contador Harrison