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NRT: An unwarranted invasion of privacy

Written By: - Date published: 3:02 pm, March 25th, 2015 - 11 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, human rights, police, Spying - Tags: , ,

From I/S at No Right Turn

An unwarranted invasion of privacy

The Herald‘s David Fisher reports that the police are regularly accessing people’s private and personal information without any form of warrant or oversight:

Broad swathes of people’s personal data are being sought regularly by police from airlines, banks, electricity companies, internet providers and phone companies without search warrants by officers citing clauses in the Privacy Act.

Senior lawyers and the Privacy Commissioner have told the Herald of concerns over the practice which sees the companies voluntarily give the information to police.

Instead of seeking a legal order, police have asked companies to hand over the information to assist with the “maintenance of the law”, threatened them with prosecution if they tell the person about whom they are interested and accept data with no record keeping to show how often requests are made.

The request from police carries no legal force at all yet is regularly complied with.

How does this happen? Because of the public’s respect for the police, or at least for the job they do. But its a blatant end-run around the law. We have a right in this country against unreasonable search and seizure. And with no warrants, we have no way of determining whether such police “requests” (backed by their uniform, and an implied threat of arrest for non-cooperation) are in any way reasonable.

The Search and Surveillance Act 2012 gives police an easy way of accessing personal information held by third parties, in the form of a production order. But even then the oversight is insufficient, because the police don’t keep records of how many production orders they obtain. But what wedo know about production orders is that they are being used for dubious and petty purposes, including spying on journalists who embarass the Prime Minister. Clearly, more oversight is required. And if they’re that lax in exercising their legal powers, I shudder to think how bad they are in exercising informal ones.

The good news is that the Privacy Commissioner is looking into it, and considering becoming a central register for such requests. Hopefully they’ll also be providing advice to agencies on their duties in regards to such requests, when they can accept them, and when they should demand a production order, so agencies can have some confidence about protecting their customer’s privacy.

11 comments on “NRT: An unwarranted invasion of privacy ”

  1. exit lane 1

    Add this unwarranted Police work around to the loophole available to the GCSB to declare New Zealander’s “private communications” as not private and therefore open to snooping without a warrant – and we have become a surveillance state


    Stasi Germany eat your heart out.

  2. Murray Rawshark 2

    The class that business owners and managers comes from is on the whole spineless and loving of authority. I’d tell the cops to go and jump in the lake. There is no way I would hand over information without a warrant. Why do so many Kiwis let anyone in uniform walk all over them?

  3. Huginn 3

    Accepting data ‘with no record keeping to show how often requests are made’ ie, no audit trail.

    They are right to be concerned. The audit trails are a safeguard against corrupt policemen selling or trading information.

  4. philj 4

    Police State? Are we there yet?

    • Chooky 4.1

      Police State?…looks like it

      …there needs to be an Independent Commission of Inquiry into this violation of New Zealanders’ human rights…it is too big for the Privacy Commissioner to audit and hold to account

      …and it is not just small businesses and managers but corporates…

      ‘Secret Police investigations of NZers using spineless corporations’

      as Bradbury says:

      “I don’t know that many NZers who bled to death on foreign shores to fight for the Police to be able to secretly threaten businesses into giving them information on you without any judicial oversight whatsoever”…


      • Murray Rawshark 4.1.1

        Bradbury is actually not likely to know any NZers who bled to death on foreign shores unless he’s into seances. I suppose it’s possible.

        • Chooky

          i knew one NZer who was shot down and ended up in a tree in a forest in Germany…and then did the Long March….he was no warmonger and would have hated what is happening in New Zealand under John key Nact ….and I suspect so would many serviceman…what is happening is exactly what they went to counter…fascist undermining of human rights and interfering and invasion of rights in sovereign countries…

          • Murray Rawshark

            My point is that the Kiwi you know did not bleed to death. I get annoyed with Bradbury’s hyperbole.

            • Chooky

              he could have bled to death or been strangled to death by his parachute up the tree…some of his mates got burned and smashed to death as they went down with the Lancaster…he could have been bludgeoned or starved to death in the POW airman concentration camp…he could have frozen to death or starved to death on the Long March

              ….point is many of those Kiwis gave their lives or risked their lives for freedom from tyranny and fascism …. not for what John Key Nact are doing to New Zealanders and New Zealand

  5. tc 5

    As long as the police are independant of political influence, open, transparent, honest, good at internal discipline and accountable to the public theres nothing to worry about…..hang on a minute I think I see the issue now.

  6. From The Guardian on the pork mistaking not being Tory for treason. It provides a parallel for what’s going on here:


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