New Zealand’s Privacy Challenge

John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, appeared on Channel 3’s Campbell Live! Show this week to reassure the population that they have nothing to fear in proposed surveillance legislation.

The government plans to extend the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Until now the agency has provided spying data to other members of the Five Eyes Network (Australia, NZ, UK, US and Canada), but it wasn’t permitted to snoop on its own people. Now it’s proposed that will change, with a warrant.

The issue is, is the process of oversight strong enough? No way, says Paul Buchanan, Principal at consultancy 36th Parallel and former US intelligence and defense policy analyst. The view is echoed by Susan Chalmers, policy lead at Internet NZ, who also argues that the bill needs more time and much more discussion.

Yet the PM seems intent on pushing it through. Why the rush? And what can we take from the semantics in his description of telecommunications metadata? And is it coincidence that Palantir, a data mining business whose client list includes the FBI and other US enforcement agencies, has just opened an office in Wellington?

Conspiracy theorists, click the play button now.

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