Thursday, September 28, 2017

More police spying

Apparently the police "wiretapped" members of human rights group People Against Prisons Aotearoa over a protest in 2016 in which they occupied a Department of Corrections office. Its unclear whether the wiretapping was of live phone calls (requiring an interception warrant, in theory only available for offences with a penalty of seven years imprisonment or longer), or of text messages under a production order (which has a much lower threshold). But even if it is the latter, it is highly disturbing. Spying on people's private communications should require a high threshold. Here, the police are using it for trespass. Which isn't exactly what most people consider to be serious crime. Instead, it looks as if the police used the excuse of the protest to pillage the communications of their critics to gather intelligence - aided and abetted by their phone companies (who obligingly retain messages and call data for three to six months just in case the police want them).

The Bill of Rights Act is supposed to protect us against unreasonable search and seizure. This seems to be the very definition of "unreasonable". It is neither necessary nor proportionate to the offence for the police to be able to snoop through all your private messages in such circumstances. And they need to be stopped from doing so. A requirement restricting the use of production orders to crimes carrying a penalty of a year or more in prison would be a good start.