Kiwis Want To Spy On All Communications, VPNs, And Be Able To Use Secret Evidence Against You

from the no-justification-needed dept

Although New Zealand's decision not to allow patents for programs "as such" was welcome, other moves there have been more problematic. For example, after it became clear that the New Zealand intelligence service, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), illegally wiretapped and spied on Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand government announced that it would change the law so as to make it legal in the future to snoop on New Zealanders as well as on foreigners. Judging by a major new bill that has been unveiled, that was just the start of a thoroughgoing plan to put in place the capability to spy on every New Zealander's Internet activity at any moment. Here's an excellent analysis of what the bill proposes, from Thomas Beagle, co-founder of the New Zealand digital rights organization Tech Liberty:
The TICS [Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security)] Bill is a replacement for the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004. This law forced communications providers (ISPs, telcos, data networks, etc) to provide "lawful intercept" capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB could access communications once they had a suitable warrant. The new bill expands and clarifies these requirements.

However, the addition of the word "security" is the key to what has changed. The new bill now gives the GCSB sweeping powers of oversight and control over the design, deployment and operation of all data and telecommunications networks run by network providers in New Zealand. The stated reasons are to both protect New Zealand's infrastructure and to ensure that surveillance agencies can spy on traffic when required. As part of this, the GCSB will have the power to stop network providers from reselling overseas services that do not provide these capabilities.
As Beagle goes on to explain, this will have a number of implications, including a requirement to build backdoors into all telecoms networks:
From the Bill:
A network operator must ensure that every public telecommunications network that the operator owns, controls, or operates, and every telecommunications service that the operator provides in New Zealand, has full interception capability.
Note that the surveillance agencies still need to have a legally issued warrant (under the Search & Surveillance Act, NZ SIS Act, or GCSB Act) to actually intercept any communications and there are obligations to avoid capturing communications that are not covered by the warrant.
Here's one way that could dramatically impact Internet users in New Zealand:
It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.
Another clause could have major implications for Megaupload:
Network operators must decrypt the intercepted communications if they have provided the encryption, but there is no obligation to do so if the encryption is provided by others.

What does this mean for providers such as Mega (file locker) or LastPass (password storage) who have a business model based on the fact that they supply a cloud product that uses encryption but have deliberately designed it so that they can not decrypt the files themselves? This gives users the assurance that they can trust them with their data. Will the government close them down unless they provide a backdoor into the system?
One deeply troubling aspect is the following:
There is also a provision that allows the courts to receive classified information in a court case in the absence of the defendant or the defendant's lawyer. This applies to information that might reveal details of the interception methods used by the surveillance agency or is about particular operations in relation to any of the functions of the surveillance agency, or is provided as secret information from the surveillance agencies of another country. It can also be used if that disclosure would prejudice security of NZ, prejudice the maintenance of law, or endanger the safety of any person.
As Beagle notes:
particularly offensive to civil liberties are the provisions for convicting people based on secret evidence. How can you defend yourself fairly when you can't even find out the evidence presented against you?
He concludes with an important point:
One must ask where the justification for this expansion of power is coming from. Has New Zealand already been materially affected by attacks on our communications infrastructure? It seems clear that while the GCSB may not be that competent at exercising the powers they already have, they have done a fine job of convincing the government that they can handle a lot more.
That's a question that needs to be put to the governments of other countries, like the US and UK, that are also seeking to extend massively their ability to spy on their own citizens. What evidence do they have that such extreme, liberty-threatening powers are actually necessary, and will make the public safer, rather than simply being a convenient way for governments to identify whistleblowers who expose their incompetence and corruption, say, or to spy on those who dare to oppose them?

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 3:59am

    'What evidence do they have that such extreme, liberty-threatening powers are actually necessary?'

    Well you see, they'd tell you but [REDACTED], [REDACTED] with the [REDACTED] means it's too [REDACTED] to make such information public.

     

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  2.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 5:43am

    Irony

    The very technology that is supposed to liberate the masses being used instead to control the masses.

     

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  3.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    Give them credit

    At least they're being blatant about it.

     

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  4.  
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    Winston Smith, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    Big Brother is watching you

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    Additionally...

    Every private conversation between one or more parties shall have a government approved interception device present within audible range.

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:34am

    Subtly plants the notion that Mega can be trusted:

    "What does this mean for providers such as Mega (file locker) or LastPass (password storage) who have a business model based on the fact that they supply a cloud product that uses encryption but have deliberately designed it so that they can not decrypt the files themselves? This gives users the assurance that they can trust them with their data. Will the government close them down unless they provide a backdoor into the system?"

    SEZ THEM! It's FAR more likely that with the extradition threat, the NZ gov't has ALREADY pressured Dotcom/Mega into installing the very backdoors that are denied here. Gov'ts never let a criminal case go to waste. You can't rule honest people, and Dotcom is actually a criminal under common law. This would explain why Dotcom is being allowed to keep unearned millions and start up a new biz doing exactly same thing while extradition process still going. -- It's impossible to be too paranoid these days. The "illegally wiretapped" decision and case could just be cover for turning Dotcom into a spy. Here's his choice: go to US for trial and almost certain jail, or stay here, start up new corporate front, and get millions from an out-of-court settlement for being wronged! No one in their right mind would choose to fight.

    Now, I hope no will say that my conjecture just can't be so. Only means that you think inside a small box. I've no proof of course, but neither do you. But it's just plain foolish to trust Dotcom, a millionaire and known criminal under common law, and when the gov't COULD pressure him TOO. Intelligence agencies have essentially unlimited money, so it's ONLY a question of whether they wish to capture Mega.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:38am

    Re: Additionally...

    And a thought-reader device has to be used daily. We really do not want Winston and Julia together!

     

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  8.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 6:39am

    The Magical Interwebs

    Once again we get to see that the interwebs MUST be treated differently than all other communications platforms because...

    Well because its the interwebs and we just don't understand it.

     

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  9.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 6:40am

    Re: Give them credit

    Yeah, I'll give them that. They could have secret interpretations of laws like we have in the US.

     

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  10.  
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    Lord Binky, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:42am

    If I was an elected overlord, I would want my minions to have complete surveillence control, for safety. My safety in particular.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:44am

    "Secret evidence"? Good grief.

    Why even bother with trials at that point? Just shoot everyone you think is guilty, then shoot everyone who complains. Cheaper, and more effective.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:47am

    only one place this has come from and we all know where that is. just like every other democratic country, it is being coerced into removing as much privacy and freedom as possible from the public while adding as much surveillance as possible. if anyone believes it is for the 'good of the country and citizens' you deserve to lose as much of the above as possible. this is only being done, using the entertainment industries and the case against Dotcom as excuses. all governments are doing the same thing, under cover of what the entertainment industries are doing, so as to achieve all they want but get none of the blame! the world is on a collision course with out and out supervision, permission needed for everything and no questions asked with control being given to corporations that have 'governments' as nothing other than front men/women

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Re: Subtly plants the notion that Mega can be trusted:

    "I'm just going to make shit up and I don't have any proof but you can't prove it's NOT true so there!"

    Pathetic.

     

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  14.  
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    Rob, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:50am

    Re: Re: Give them credit

    Are we sure they don't?

     

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  15.  
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    Ashley, May 16th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    Global Laws

    This is a worldwide law that is to be enforced.
    Every country is set on this course.
    For those yet to awake there are many of these "global" laws being enacted determined by who ?
    Certainly not your local puppets.

     

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  16.  
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    0strikes VPN, May 16th, 2013 @ 7:16am

    NOT WANTED

    Kiwis (Nzers) do not want this nor the bill that accompanies it.
    Get this guys, the govt spy agency (GCSB) was caught ILLEGALLY spying on 88 NZers incl. Kim Dotcom and what does the government do?

    Pat them on the back then decide to draft a law basically giving them free licence to spy on its own citizens without warrant and grant them a whole raft of new powers and be the oversight body for this TICS bill above.

    Our current PM is definitely a 1%er :(

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Make sure your computer does the encryption

    Make sure your computer does the encryption.

    It does not have to be hard. See: http://eccentric-authentication.org/

    And use this to secure your own computer: http://genode.org

    If your computer is not loyal to you, it's hardly of use.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Collapse

    They figured that since the global economy is collapsing, they might as well go full rogue. If they're going to become third world countries, they figured they better start acting like them.

    This current ruling generation is a disgrace. The World War 2 heroes should rise from their graves (w-a-k-e-u-p), give them a hard spanking (r-e-v-o-l-t), and put them in time out (p-r-i-s-o-n).

     

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  19.  
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    Rapnel (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    what?

    self-preservation. not of, for or by people but of, for and by those that wish to shore up their rule, control and oversight of people.

    damned be to hell those that would oppose for righteousness of rulers shall prevail over the least of us should our burdens prove too heavy to wield and defenselessness assured our just convictions.

    to the sea!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 11:49am

    many New Zealanders consider "Kiwi" an insult

    just so you know, in case you actually meet a real person from New Zealand one day and he smacks you out.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 1:45pm

    How could New Zealand enforce this upon VPN sevices that are not even in New Zealand?

    I could see the US enforcing such a law, since a lot of the VPN services are operated from offices in the US

    However, a US-based VPN service, which many of them are, are only subject to US laws, and a US based VPN service could tell the NZ government to take a long walk off a short pier, and there is nothing the NZ government could do about it.

     

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  22.  
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    Kiwi, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:08pm

    Re: many New Zealanders consider "Kiwi" an insult

    Nah man we are pretty chill don't see that happening much if at all.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:09pm



    It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.



    Totally unenforcable. I run a small VPN service, though not a very big one, which I might start running a premium subscription version someday.

    If I do that, I will only recognize US jurisdiction, as I am in the USA, and so are my servers. I will sell my service, if I decide to make a subscription service, to New Zelanders, and will totally ignore any ban the Minister puts on me. Since I would use PayPal for payments, the Minister will have no jurisdiction to stop that. And it the Minister does not like that, he can just go piss up a rope.

     

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  24.  
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    Divide by Zero (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    TICS. Such an appropriate acronym for the bunch of blood suckers who happen to he our government.

     

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  25.  
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    Graham Rogers, May 16th, 2013 @ 6:19pm

    Security needs for whom?

    Over the last few months, it has been interesting watch one then another of the Echelon countries pass these ideas around like some hot potato. Each time, the same arguments are brought forward: that increased security is needed for - criminals, terrorism, pornography, other. With wringing hands and a furrowed brow, the current politician repeats the reasons given by the forces hiding behind him or her. This time it is NZ, but over the last year or so (and more), Australia, Canada, UK and US have all had a go. Conspiracy theorists may have a point here.

     

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  26.  
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    martyburns (profile), May 17th, 2013 @ 5:52am

    Re: many New Zealanders consider "Kiwi" an insult

    WTF? Its what we call ourselves all the time. On TV, in newspapers in conversation, in fucking everything.

    Stop talking shit

     

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


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