New Zealand politicians face snooping backlash

Politicians in New Zealand are finding that their plans to mimic the UK government and spy on their citizens are going down like a dag sandwich.

For a while the government thought that it would get its new surveillance laws in without much of a fight. After all, Britain and the US seemed to have managed it.

But suddenly Prime Minister John Key is finding the plan extremely unpopular. There are nationwide protests and even a demonstration outside his home.

According to ZDNetAuckland town hall was actually packed with people who wanted to hear opponents to new and expanded spy powers. What must be worrying for the government is that New Zealanders rarely get out and protest about anything. When they do, such as when the Springboks toured New Zealand, things get very messy.

The crusade against snooping is being led by Kim Dotcom. Vikram Kumar, the chief executive of Kim Dotcom’s Mega, told the meeting that when the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill – the “TICS Bill” – becomes law, the New Zealand government plans to issue secret orders to force non-telco service providers, such as email, chat, and online voice services, to create interception capabilities for surveillance.

He showed documents that proved ministerial directives will be used to “secretly impose an obligation to create interception capabilities by individually named service providers”.

This will all be done in secret so as not to publicly announce a lack of capability in a particular service.

The plan has been already approved by the Cabinet, and is therefore official government policy.

Protest actions focus on the TICS Bill and a Government Communications Services Bureau Bill. The fear is that spooks will now be able to look at legitimate internal political activism, away from foreign threats, and undermine the integrity and privacy of online communications.

The government wants to use secret orders to specific service providers directing the creation of interception capability, allowing real-time access by surveillance agencies.

John Key claims that he would resign if GCSB undertook mass surveillance, even if he appears to have created a system where it is made possible.

The GCSB Bill will only be voted for by a majority of one in parliament and protestors hope that it will be possible to get politicians to see how unpopular they will become by voting for it.