Law Reform for Government Surveillance - the GCSB and TICS Bills

POSTED BY Rick Shera
28 June 2013

posted in Legislation | GCSB

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Two important pieces of legislation are currently being debated before Parliament, each relating to the expansion of the government’s ability to carry out surveillance on New Zealanders. They are:

  1. the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill (GCSB Bill); and
  2. the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill (TICS Bill).

GCSB Bill. This Bill would significantly widen the powers of the GCSB including by enabling it to carry out surveillance on New Zealanders, which is expressly disallowed under the current Act. Whereas the Act’s focus is on gathering foreign intelligence, that key focus is to be removed by the Bill. As a safeguard, in order to carry out surveillance on a New Zealander (defined as a citizen or a permanent resident) the responsible Minister (the Prime Minister) must be satisfied as to a number of requirements, and jointly with the Commissioner of Security Warrants, grant a warrant. Intelligence gathered deliberately or incidentally under these processes may be shared with anyone at the discretion of the GCSB Director.

The GCSB Bill also:

  • updates the Act’s terminology in keeping with advances in technology including with the new definition of "information infrastructure”; and
  • proposes amendments to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996, and the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996, proposing those give those agencies greater powers of oversight over the GCSB.

TICS Bill. Currently, under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004, network operators (the phone companies, the internet service providers and the like) have to provide "lawful intercept" capabilities so that the Police, SIS and GCSB can gain access to communications if they first obtain a warrant. The TICS Bill proposes to replace that Act and expand those obligations to also apply to "service providers”. This will include anyone who provides a telecommunications service to an end-user, such as companies providing Voice over IP (Skype), email (Google), and messaging (like Facebook and Twitter). It will also cover non-commercial services like remote access to employees. The amendments will mean that those service providers must be "interception capable” and be able to decrypt their encrypted users’ communications at the request of the government agency. This has large scale potential effects on the design and operation of commercially available data and voice communications networks, which is to be overseen by the GCSB.

Each of these Bills is presently before the relevant select committee for debate before reporting to the House later this year.

POSTED BY Rick Shera
28 June 2013

posted in LegislationGCSB

VIEWED 3965 TIMES

PERMALINK

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