New Zealand Decides To Spy On An Awful Lot Of Your Online Activity

from the surveillance-society dept

The EFF alerts us to what appear to be rather draconian surveillance powers given to law enforcement in New Zealand to monitor all sorts of communications:
In preparation, technicians have been installing specialist spying devices and software inside all telephone exchanges, internet companies and even fibre-optic data networks between cities and towns, providing police and spy agencies with the capability to monitor almost all communications.

Police and SIS must still obtain an interception warrant naming a person or place they want to monitor but, compared to the phone taps of the past, a single warrant now covers phone, email and all internet activity.

It can even monitor a person's location by detecting their mobile phone; all of this occurring almost instantaneously.
Apparently, New Zealand is looking to help boost the market for encryption technology. In the meantime, defenders of this law throw out all the clichés:
Police association vice-president Stuart Mills said the new capabilities are required because criminals were using new technologies to communicate, and that people who weren't committing criminal offences had little to fear.
Of course, that statement makes no sense. Just because criminals are using a new technology to communicate it doesn't mean you should have a built in backdoor to monitor all of it. I believe some criminals have used paper to write each other notes. Should we force all pads to have carbon paper for making a copy of every note taken? As for the "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" statement, that's been debunked so many times, it's not even worth going there. Yet, if we must, would Police Association Vice President Stuart Mills object to a video camera being placed in every room in his house, recorded 24/7 and kept on file. We promise that no one will look at it without a warrant. He shouldn't object, right, because he's not doing anything wrong at home, so he has little to fear. Right?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:06am

    wow, liberty killer

    I think someone said it like this: you don't want your sexlife public, but that's what this is equivalent to.

    It's not about what you're doing wrong, and more about the right to privacy that shouldn't be able to be abused.

     

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  2.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Immoral argument

    "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear"

    Two major flaws

    1) We have to trust that they aren't doing anything wrong.

    2) The argument, when analysed, reduces to "The end justifies the means" - which is known to be a deeply immoral argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Hulser (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    Contradictory Kiwis

    I seems weird that New Zealand is implementing this kind of surveillance. I'm no exert on Kiwi culture, but the people from New Zealand (and Ausutralia, for that matter) seem to lean more towards the liberal and open-minded end of the spectrum. So why would people of this mindset allow such onerous surveillance?

    This is just my experience, but I think it has something to do with their views of the government. In America, we have a natural distrust of the government. There's no conflict between loving your country and viewing politicians as egomaniacal bastards that are more concerned about their own career than the welfare of their constituants. But -- again, in my experience -- New Zealanders and Australians seem to view their government in much more of a positive, almost paternal manner. In short, they seem to trust their government more. Maybe this explains the contradiction.

     

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  4.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:25am

    Re: Immoral argument

    Since they need a court order to intercept any communications, it isn't exactly like they can do whatever they want.

    This isn't more or less than being able to tap a phone.

     

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  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Immoral argument

    And the power will never ever be abused by anybody ever!

     

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  6.  
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    justok (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    If

    If I've got nothing to hide, why do you want to look at what I do? Are you a pervert?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Call me Al, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:05am

    Re: Contradictory Kiwis

    "But -- again, in my experience -- New Zealanders and Australians seem to view their government in much more of a positive, almost paternal manner. In short, they seem to trust their government more. Maybe this explains the contradiction."

    At the risk of being cynical, they are both quite young countries and have yet to develop the general contempt and distrust of their politicians and authorities that most older countries have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Immoral argument

    "Since they need a court order to intercept any communications, it isn't exactly like they can do whatever they want."

    That's what we were told about all that newfangled eavesdropping in here in the US, too. As it turned out, that was only true in a technical sense, not in the sense of being actually, you know, true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Immoral argument

    A warrant covers a lot more than a traditional warrant would. Rather than just getting a phone tap warrant, they can now tap everything at once.

    This is a bit more problematic than the current system.

    It should be complicated for law enforcement to look into every detail of someone's life - that is part of what protects us from abuse of this type of monitoring. Asking a judge for a wire tap on someone's phone is a lot different than asking for taps on 4 phones, 2 cell phones, and their internet connection individually - something like that may make a judge take notice.

    With what I am reading their new system does, they will automatically get access to everything. Someone suspected of say - downloading infringing music, should not be subject to a wire tap on their phones because law enforcement has gotten a warrant to monitor their web usage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    Indeed. It's not hard to see how a blanket wiretap on email, telephone calls, internet activity and even your current cellphone location could lead to abuses - intentional or otherwise.

    You'd have to be cripplingly naive not to think that this will get abused at some point, or see that the potential for harm is far greater than a simple phone tap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Yogi, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Hmmmm

    Reminds me of "Enemy of the State".

    Though you have to wonder what the hell are they getting so freaked about in NZ? Are the sheep attacking them?

     

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  12.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Hmmmm

    Maybe some of the locals thought this was a documentary?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0779982/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    A better question, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Re: Hmmmm

    How much of the world's Internet traffic passes through NZ?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Mechwarrior, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:50am

    Its only a matter of time for the intercepted messages to be posted to a website. Then we can all read about the wonton trysts of NZ's celebrities and non-celebrities.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    martyburns, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Not surprised

    As a kiwi ex-pat this doesn't surprise me. I think so many people are too technology scared/ignorant to put up any fuss. Or too lazy. Lets hope I'm wrong and it gets repealed.

     

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  16.  
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    The Anti-Mike (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    There is always some potential for abuse. Every system has it. The question should be the potential good versus the potential abuse.

    It has look since been proven that good wiretapping has huge potential good, and the potential abuse is very small next to it. In a free society, the public would not tolerate systematic abuses for very long, which would lead to a political uprising that would see changes in systems or significant penalties for abusers.

    It would be a real shame if the potential to stop criminal activity was lost because of the often overblown fears of "abuse".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    "In a free society, the public would not tolerate systematic abuses for very long"

    Perhaps so, but in the society that I live in (the US), the public readily tolerates systematic abuses, then eventually grows accustomed to them and accepts them as normal.

    You talk of "potential" good and harm, but I'm more interested in actual good and harm, and as near as I can see the actual balance isn't anywhere near as rosy as you claim. There can indeed be a way to balance the good and harm, such as having strong oversight and not expanding police power, but that isn't the direction we're going.

    The fears of abuse aren't overblown at all, they're based on real world experience and history.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Luci, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Immoral argument

    Being just a bit naive, aren't we?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Luci, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    Looking at how governments act, today, the 'potential' for abuse MUST be weighed, and in a case such as this it is far too great. Not only by governments, but by businesses and corporations, as well. Some of us have been alive far too long to trust these things, any more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    dwind (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    good grief

    If the monitors are in place they will be used as they 'have to be tested' every once and a while. Your credit card number is no longer safe over there.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    A decade ago, if a teleco switch was opened, it would cause an "alarm" situation which would show up on an exception report and delivered to the FBI.

    The advent of packet and IP based telecoms no longer require someone to physically open a switch cabinet. However, the laws have not been revisited to ensure similar protections enjoyed only a decade ago remain enforced.

    Should they be revisited? Perhaps. But we are engaged in a war on Terror.

    It's the reality we live in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    reaperman0, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    What I think is funny is that you are always on here under an anonymous username while at the same time saying that we just need a way to track everyone on the internet and then there will be no more piracy issues since people won't 'steal' when they can easily be identified, and that you have no problem being monitored all the time.

    Irony is funny, no?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    It's really a question for the courts...

     

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  24.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Hmm, Interesting...

    I seem to recall that New Zealand was one of the nations that is a part of the Echelon SigInt network.

    Coincidence?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Fentex, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Contradictory Kiwis

    Speaking as a New Zealander it's true we don't worry as much about our government as others seem too.

    Partially this is because we're the least corrupt country in the world, but also because we're small and unimportant - we don't bother other people and no one bothers us much, we don't have much wealth to thieve and no military industrial complex savaging our economy.

    Also no one told us about this new law.

    But even so it doesn't seem that much to get worked up about in so much as it's just putting in place the means by which to exercise a warrant.

    I didn't get upset when the local cops bought a crowbar so they could exercise a warrant to enter my home (should they get one), why should their getting a splice prepared for 'entering' net comms upset me any more? Does anyone imagine the police aren't going to get such a thing, that governments are just not going to provide the police means to monitor online activity?

    I could start using a VPN just as I could strengthern my door if I wished to take precautions.

    I would worry a lot more if I lived in a country that disappeared people off streets into foreign gulags where they're tortured to death AND the intelligence services eavesdropped at will with no judicial oversight - like the U.S.A.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 5th, 2010 @ 4:18pm

    No One’s Worried, Because It’s A Waste Of Time

    Tapping the Internet doesn’t really get you much, apart maybe from traffic statistics. All the smart people are using end-to-end encryption anyway. For instance, all my communication with remote clients’ machines is routinely done via SSH.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jan 5th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    Re: Re: Hmmmm

    ...

    New Zealand's.

    and possibly some of Antarctica's. (not sure about that bit)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 12:51am

    how bloody predicatable...

    i was just actually reading the linked article, and found this:

    "Official papers obtained by the Star-Times show that, despite government claims that it was done for domestic reasons, the new New Zealand spying capabilities are part of a push by United States agencies to have standardised surveillance capabilities available for their use from governments worldwide."

    another classic. *sigh* i don't even get why they keep TRYING to keep the USA happy. it's not like we actually Gain anything significant from it, that i ever noticed.


    and later:

    "FBI Director Robert Mueller III told a senate committee in March last year that the FBI needs "global reach" to fight cyber-crime and terrorism and that co-operation with "law enforcement partners" gives it "the means to leverage the collective resources of many countries"."

    hold on a second here.
    forgive me if I'm wrong.

    but...

    isn't the FBI supposed to be, you know, Internal?!

    *sigh*

    there are many reasons why i don't pay as much attention to NZ politics as i should. the shear headache inducing stupidity of it all is one.

    can't even say our politicians are corrupt, or mouthpieces for lobbyists. they're not even stupid, Mostly... or all that ignorant, usually...

    they just seem to have this total disconnect between cause and effect when the cause is (usually)ideology driven actions on their part and the effect hits anywhere other than their chances of getting reelected.

    yay cross-spectrum incompetence. woo!

    representative-democracy in action, folks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), Jan 6th, 2010 @ 9:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Immoral argument

    I can't even begin to process the amount of stupid you just spewed. Even though this story is not about the US, basic human rights and freedoms are universal (like Privacy). As far as "overblown fears of 'abuse'" if the system was not already abused on a regular basis it would not be a problem. Please grow a brain before commenting further.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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