Monday, June 24, 2013

How bad does it have to get?

Over the weekend we learned that Britain's GCHQ was tapping every international cable going into the UK, recording all internet traffic, and sharing it with the NSA under a very dubious interpretation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The spying wa so extensive that even MI5 - who are not exactly friends of privacy and human rights - thought it was going too far. This raises a couple of interesting questions.

Firstly, did GCHQ share any of their data with the GCSB? And was any of that data about New Zealanders? Note that such sharing would be illegal under the current GCSB Act, which covers not just physical interception, but also acquisition even of summaries from foreign partners. Questions need to be asked in Parliament about this.

Secondly, is the GCSB doing this or planning to do this here? At this stage, I think its worth noting the Spy Bill's proposed new section 15A (1) (a) (ii), which would allow GCSB to intercept any "communications that are sent from, or are being sent to, an overseas country". This would be subject to their proposed revised section 14, which forbids interception the communications of New Zealanders, but note that that only applies to the GCSB's foreign intelligence function. If they say its for the purposes of "cybersecurity", to "allow the GCSB to see who (namely New Zealand individuals and companies) is being attacked", then they can spy on us as much as they want, and share it all with their foreign "partners".

Thirdly, and most importantly: how bad does it have to get to convince Peter Dunne and Winston Peter to vote against the bill? Seriously. What we're seeing from overseas is a mindset of total surveillance for total control, which (charitably) skirts all legal oversight. And the spy bill reflects that mindset and enables such action here. Is that really the sort of New Zealand Dunne and Peters believe in? One where the government taps every phone call, reads and databases and datamines every email and web visit, just in case we're up to anything naughty are targeted by Nigerian scammers? Really?

The acid needs to go on these two to declare their opposition for the bill. And if they don't, and it passes, we should be very clear on who is to blame for our new totalitarian internet surveillance state.