A law has been passed giving New Zealand’s intelligence agencies greater powers — despite widespread opposition from human rights groups, private companies and the public.
The newly enacted Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Bill authorises the gathering of private communications of citizens, including text messages, emails and bank account details without the need for a search warrant.
It also permits information collected by the GCSB to be shared with the Security Intelligence Service, the New Zealand Police, the military and other global intelligence collecting agencies.
The new GCSB law was passed by 61 votes to 59 on August 22. Prime Minister John Key said: “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.”
Critics say new law violated political rights. The New Zealand Law Society, in a report to the United Nations, said: “A number of recent legislative measures are fundamentally in conflict with the rule of law ...
“It is inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search or seizure.”
New Zealand Human Rights Chief Commissioner David Rutherford said: “The right to privacy is fundamental in a democracy and reinforces other fundamental rights, such as rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“The proposed restrictions on the right to privacy are too general to be proportionate to the Bill’s objectives.”
At a recent meeting held at the Auckland Town Hall, Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom, told a packed audience, “This will be the birth of a surveillance society in New Zealand.”
Dotcom was one of many people illegally spied by the GCSB before armed police raided his Auckland mansion as part of a US-probe into online piracy last year.