PRISM collects, GCSB looks
To gain a full understanding of what the GCSB Bill will legalise requires a close watching of the Campbell Live interview with John Key a few times.
Hidden within the nuances of the conversation is the core of the whole debate. Where is the electronic information the Government Communications Security Bureau collects on New Zealanders coming from?
Key's assertion, that the GCSB will require a warrant to access the electronic data (from Google, Facebook and so on) of those it wishes to surveille, is probably factually true.
What seems clear, from Key's refusals of discussion and the Snowden National Security Agency (NSA) leaks is that this information is collected by the NSA and its Five Eye partners via two programs - PRISM and XKeyscore.
Indeed the central proposition of the whole GCSB versus privacy conflict hinges on the veiled point Key makes right at the end of the interview, "It doesn't matter whether I got here in a bus, I came here in a taxi or I came here in a Crown car, it matters that I got here. It doesn't matter what techniques GCSB use or don't use, what matters is it is legal."
What Key means is this: It doesn't matter whether the GCSB and our Five Eyes partners are collecting 1-2 billion phone and email records a day from human beings across the planet and storing them on computers run by the NSA. What matters is that a New Zealand police officer or SIS agent will only look at them if they have a warrant.
Many of us will disagree with Key and say, actually it does matter that the most powerful government on earth (that has killed, wounded or made homeless over 20 million people since 1962) should be able to harvest our online records, with the help of our own GCSB and Waihopai spybase.
Actually it does matter that the conversations we have online, our search histories, our banking records and phone calls are being collected and stored. It breaches our fundamental human rights to privacy and needs to stop. At the very least our government should stop participating in it.
Internet freedom is the right to relax online. This in the context of permanent mass surveillance ceases to have any meaning if the GCSB Bill legalises New Zealand's use of XKeystroke and PRISM. As the New Zealand Supreme Court decided in a 2011 judgement on the Urewera trial,
Covert surveillance by the police of people who do not know that they are being observed collides with values of freedom and dignity in the same way as search of their correspondence or interception of their conversations. The right to be "secure against unreasonable search" underscores a purpose in allowing citizens to relax vigilance and live their lives with freedomIf you agree with these words then help fill the Town Hall on Monday 19 August.
Covert surveillance is a substantial breach of the right to be let alone. As is the case with interception of private communications, it is undermining of the values of dignity and personal freedom section 21 of the Bill or Rights Act.
-Tim F. SA