Did you commute to work in a New Zealand city today? Did you stop at a traffic light? At work, did you sign onto a computer? Take a work phone call? Did you perhaps make a personal call on a cellular phone call, log into facebook, twitter, google? Did you log onto the internet?
If you’ve done any of the above, plus almost any other action in modern society, you’ve probably submitted yourself to some kind of surveillance, either state or private. If you’re really concerned about what the government is doing with the new legislation, think about the comparative power that Vodafone would have in analysing and using your data. We are more than happy to sign away any rights we might have whenever we log into a computer, go to work, click ‘accept’ without ever really reading the terms and conditions of use on any number of services because we get something out of it. We give up our liberties every time we do anything today, it seems.
New Zealand authorities, both civic and state, have been analysing metadata since the Whanganui Police computer in the 70’s. And since that time they’ve been subsequently adding other government departments to information sharing. A fair argument can be made that this data analysis and sharing has made our societies safer and more secure, that CC cameras in our city is a deterrent to crime, that collection of metadata makes our lives easier.
So what does the GCSB actually change? The Government has been using the GCSB to essentially spy on citizens of concerns for years, all it means is that it’s being more honest and open about its powers, and that has to be a good thing… right? Kim Dot Com, despite the folk hero status he seems to have his PR people work so hard to cultivate, was performing illegal actions. Arguments have been made from “we’re entering into a Nazi-style fascist state” to “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear”. The truth, I think, isn’t in either of these extremes, but lies somewhere in the middle
I believe that, honestly, there has the be an ability for security forces to collect certain data on citizens that may be breaking the law. What I think IS concerning is the way that the power is yielded.
There is, and rightfully so, some some comparisons made with the current United States Snowden/NSA story. And, despite the fact that it seems to have failed, the advantage of the US system is the checks and balances. Congress keeps an eye on what the Executive is doing and the FISA court has to sign off any decisions the NZSA makes. There doesn’t seem to be any oversight of the GCSB except by… well the Office of the Prime Minister. And Key doesn’t appear to be overseen by anyone. Almost all security forces are overseen by the executive branch, without any checks and balances made by the courts or the congressional (parliamentary) wings.
And this is what I find concerning. Key states that he will resign if the GCSB starts mass surveillance of the citizens, but who is to say what future executive branches might consider to be the line that can’t be crossed?