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NZ plans interception law refresh

Dotcom bust leads to spooks' charter

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Still suffering judicial criticism over its bungled spying on Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand government has announced that it will revise its telecommunications interception regime to force ISPs and telcos to co-operate with that country's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Ms Adams' announcement stated that “network operators will be obliged to engage with the Government through the GCSB on network security, where it might affect New Zealand’s national security and economic well-being”, and that getting telecommunications companies to deal “effectively” with government is vital “in protecting the country from crime and protecting our national security”.

However, while the government is highlighting the cooperative and security aspects of its proposals, the announcement also makes it clear that interception is on its mind: “Updating the legislation will ensure that New Zealand’s telecommunications companies have a clearer understanding of how to meet their interception obligations while ensuring network infrastructure remains secure, as we move to an increasingly online world,” Ms Adams' statement says.

In its FAQ the government says the new interception rules are supposed to make it easier for carriers and ISPs to understand and comply with their obligations.

Paul Brislen, head of New Zealand's Telecommunications Users Association, believes the legislation is in response to the “gift that keeps on giving” – the notorious Kim Dotcom case, which has revealed the GCSB's misunderstandings of its own rights and powers. Having mistakenly treated communications metadata as information that could be demanded from carriers – an error which Brislen notes is undermining the Crown's standing in the Dotcom case – the government appears to be seeking a legislative response.

“It's an odd proposal,” Brislen told The Register, “because the telcos already do a lot of work with the police and various agencies. If someone serves a warrant, they will dig out the information required.”

He said New Zealand's telcos are “fastidious” about complying with warrants, “making sure they have all the paperwork in place before they go ahead”.

He added that the government has shown a willingness to enact knee-jerk legislation without considering its implications – for example, in passing laws to block mobile phone signals in prisons in spite of industry warnings, leading to resident and business complaints around the Mount Eden prison. ®

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