Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The police are identity thieves

RNZ this morning had another shocking story of police abusing their power to invade privacy and engage in online identity theft:

Police are trying to assume the online identities of suspects and defendants by taking over their social media and email accounts to gather information.

Defence lawyers concerned about their young and vulnerable clients alerted RNZ to a form the police are using, titled 'Consent to Assume Online Internet Identity'.

The form asks people to sign away their social media and email accounts, allowing the police to "take control of and use my internet online identities".

Those signing the document are asked to provide the passwords so that police can access the accounts and use the information stored on them.


Those signing the form "relinquish all present and future claims to the use of these accounts" and are told police will change their passwords so they no longer have access.

As with the police's acquisition of private personal information from banks, there's no statutory basis for this. And while they're claiming it is by "consent", the fact that they are focusing on young and vulnerable people to trawl and database their contacts and communications and impersonate them to their friends tells you everything you need to know. We saw exactly these tactics from police when they forced young people to "consent" to having their DNA taken, or to be photographed children for their racist databases, and the "consent" is about as meaningful here as it was then. Given the inherent imbalance of power with someone who can simply stick you in a cell, there can be no legal consent where police are involved unless you have a lawyer present.

I'll be filing an OIA to find out how widespread this tactic is, but I expect that, as with production orders, they conveniently won't know. Because if you don't want something managed, the best way is not to measure it.