New Zealand passes law allowing domestic spying

August 21, 2013
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom speaks at Bowen House in Wellington on July 3, 2013 as lawmakers examine a controversial proposal allowing intelligence agencies to spy on local residents. New Zealand passed legislation Wednesday allowing its main intelligence agency to spy on residents and citizens, despite opposition from rights groups, international technology giants and the legal fraternity.

New Zealand passed legislation Wednesday allowing its main intelligence agency to spy on residents and citizens, despite opposition from rights groups, international technology giants and the legal fraternity.

The bill to expand the power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) passed by 61 votes to 59 after impassioned debate, with Prime Minister John Key acknowledging the move had left some people "agitated and alarmed".

"This is not, and never will be, about wholesale spying on New Zealanders," Key told parliament.

"There are threats our government needs to protect New Zealanders from, those threats are real and ever-present and we underestimate them at our peril."

The push to change the law came after it emerged last year that the GCSB illegally spied on Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom before armed police raided his Auckland mansion as part of a US-led probe into online piracy.

At the time Key publicly apologised to Dotcom, who is a New Zealand resident and should have been off-limits to the GCSB under legislation preventing it from snooping on locals.

However, an official report found that Dotcom's case was only one of dozens in which the GCSB had overstepped its bounds.

Key then moved to change the law to let the GCSB spy on New Zealanders, arguing it needed to cooperate more closely with agencies such as the police and military in an increasingly complex cyber-security environment.

Dotcom has been one of the strongest opponents of the bill, saying it gives government spies legal access to New Zealanders' electronic communications, including mobile phone calls.

"This will be the birth of a surveillance state in New Zealand," he told a protest meeting in Auckland last weekend.

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have also voiced concern about expanding the GCSB's surveillance powers.

"Blanket rules requiring and accessibility are blunt tools, which have the potential to infringe on and constrain economic growth," Facebook said in a submission to a parliamentary committee reviewing the bill.

New Zealand's Law Society, Human Rights Commission and Privacy Commission all made submissions raising concerns about the bill and calling for significant changes.

Explore further: NZ PM apologises to Dotcom for spy bungle

Related Stories

NZ PM apologises to Dotcom for spy bungle

September 27, 2012

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key apologised Thursday to Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom over an "unacceptable" bungle by government spies leading up to the arrest of the Megaupload boss.

NZ court backs Dotcom's right to sue spy agency

March 7, 2013

An appeal court Thursday backed Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom's right to sue New Zealand's foreign intelligence agency for illegally spying on him as part of a US probe into alleged online piracy.

Kim Dotcom and New Zealand PM to face off over spy laws

July 2, 2013

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key are set to come face to face for the first time Wednesday as lawmakers examine a controversial proposal allowing intelligence agencies to spy on local ...

Hackers attack New Zealand PM's website

July 30, 2013

The "hacktivist" group Anonymous on Tuesday briefly crashed New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's website in protest at plans to allow the country's intelligence agency to spy on local residents.

Recommended for you

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Claudius
1 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2013
New Zealand passed legislation Wednesday allowing its main intelligence agency to spy on residents and citizens, despite opposition


Shameful

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.