Thursday, October 13, 2016

Phone companies don't want to be spies

The government is currently pushing a spy bill which could significantly expand the powers of our spy agencies. One of the minor provisions would enable private bodies - for example, banks and phone companies - to provide information to spies on request. Its specifically intended to allow spies to circumvent warrant processes, while insulating companies from any legal consequences for betraying their customers' privacy. The good news is that Vodafone, one of the larger telecommunications companies, has said "nope":

Telecommunications giant Vodafone says it is uncomfortable about a proposal to allow New Zealand companies to volunteer suspicious information about their customers to spying agencies.

The company told MPs at Parliament today that it would prefer to stick to a warrants-based regime, rather than offer up sensitive information on its own initiative.


Vodafone lead counsel Tom Thurby said he did not expect any New Zealand business to proactively volunteer information if the law change went ahead.

"Our position would be that we will respond to warrants, we will respond to compulsion. We will not co-operate on a voluntary basis under this clause."

Spark has also apparently raised this issue. Good. There is a process by which the spies can obtain information, which involves both an assessment of its necessity and oversight of the spies' decisions. And they should stick to it. Spies should not be allowed to circumvent the warrant process and the oversight it entails by effectively bullying companies into submission. And naturally, any company receiving such a bullying request should publicise it immediately and tell the spies to fuck off.