Monday, August 11, 2014

The Human Rights Commission on digital spying

Recently the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age. The report is highly critical of the US-led Five Eyes spying revealed by Edward Snowden and concludes that it violates international human rights law, notably the ICCPR-affirmed rights to privacy, non-discrimination and an effective remedy.

A couple of weeks ago, someone pointed out to me that the NZ Human Rights Commission had submitted on this report. The short version:

  • The HRC thinks the GCSB and TICS laws violate both the BORA and international law;
  • They want a full and independent inquiry into digital spying. The Intelligence and Security Committee Act's statutory review provision is the default vehicle for this, but they are concerned about its independence;
  • New Zealand has been hypocritical on the world stage, supporting UN resolutions against digital spying while passing laws which violate those resolutions;
  • We've had a "please explain" from the UN Human Rights Committee about this, and the GCSB and TICS Acts are squarely on the agenda for our 2016 Universal Periodic Review of human rights.

Reading between the lines, John Key's spy bills are going to come back to bite us hard. New Zealand is going to get pilloried by the UPR, and we may be subject to ICCPR complaints. This will have consequences for our international reputation, which our entire foreign policy depends on. Just another example of how spies damage rather than protect our national interests, and how we are better off without them.