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New Zealand Telecoms forced to collaborate in state surveillance under new law

Dissenters say that membership in the “Five Eyes” network isn’t worth the invasion of Kiwi privacy.


Miles Klee


While most of the world continued to freak out about how much access governments already have private data, New Zealand’s parliament this month passed measures to ensure that their intelligence agencies will have broad access to civilian data not just now, but far into the future. As International Business Times explained:

The new law will compel telecommunications companies to consult with New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) when planning to develop new networks and infrastructure. The GCSB will need to install interception and spying equipment on the new infrastructures.

The Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill, which squeaked by in a 61-to-59 vote, will also force telecoms and tech companies to assist in the interception and decryption of phone calls, texts, and emails. Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Facebook together applied for an exemption from the law, which was summarily denied in mid-October.

While the legislation does mean big changes for how the GCSB operates and what they can feasibly find out about their own citizens, it also amounts to a solidified position in the Technical Cooperation Program, sometimes known as the “Five Eyes”: a security organization predicated on the sharing of sensitive information between the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The measure was supported by the United Future and ACT parties. MP Russel Norman, co-leader of the Greens, lamented that parliament had just made it easier for foreign powers to spy on Kiwis, remarking that this was “part of the price for membership” in the international surveillance network. Labour MP Grant Robertson, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that “this government wants to bury its head in the sand” at a moment when other countries are under pressure to curtail their eavesdropping activities, not expand them.

Although the bill raised many civil rights concerns, the main changes made to it in the legislative process were designed to reduce compliance costs for the companies affected.

Photo by Dan Wiklund/Flickr

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