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Plans to “wiretap” the net

Written By: - Date published: 10:11 am, August 19th, 2013 - 17 comments
Categories: internet, Spying - Tags: , , , ,

The second of the weekend’s must-read pieces. This one is by Vikram Kumar (CEO of Mega) published in the NBR. Here are some extracts:

Revealed: govt plans secret orders to service providers once spy bill becomes law

[Since the the first draft of the legislation, we have known the TICS Bill – the companion legislation to the GCSB Bill – makes it mandatory for telecommunications network operators (e.g. Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees) to make their networks interceptable. The Bill leaves it to the ICT Minister’s discretion whether this provision is extended to cover service providers – defined as companies that provide a telecommunications service, but that do not operate a network. Examples of service providers include ISPs, plus the likes of Microsoft with its Skype service, Google with Talk and Hangouts and Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage. Almost any online service is on the table – Editor]

The government is planning to issue secret orders to service providers when the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill (“TICS Bill”) becomes law to force them to create interception capability for surveillance agencies. This has been approved by cabinet and is therefore official Government policy.

What’s not clear is if the mechanism of a Ministerial directive will also be used to gag the service provider? Or is the secrecy merely a guise to allow compliant service providers to pretend they haven’t been forced to create a backdoor for the government? …

In response to a request under the Official Information Act in my personal capacity, I received nine documents and merged them into one. The combined document can be viewed or downloaded from Scribd.  …

Para 104 of the December 2012 “Technical Paper:  Telecommunications Interception Capability and Network Security” by MBIE (page 19 of the combined document); para 109 of the paper to the Cabinet Committee on Domestic and External Security Coordination (page 62); and para 37 of the Cabinet paper (page 74) all confirm the same thing:

A Ministerial directive will be used to secretly/confidentially impose an obligation to create interception capabilities by individually named service providers (referred to as “deem-in” but what I call a backdoor) “so as not to publicly announce a lack of capability in a particular service.”

The Government is therefore going to be using secret orders to specific service providers directing the creation of interception capability, allowing real-time access by surveillance agencies

Rather than seize the moment to be a global leader in enacting sensible, proportionate and effective laws, the Government is making laws ‘just in case’ they are required in the future, with no evidence that service providers are part of the problem. I hope others will join me in calling for the Government to not go down this path. Once trust is lost, getting it back is going to be difficult if not impossible.

Former State Services Commission strategy & innovation manager and InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar is CEO of Mega. He wrote and researched this article in a personal capacity. He posts at Internet Ganesha.

Go read the full piece in the NBR.

17 comments on “Plans to “wiretap” the net ”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    When you think about it , as the ‘net’ uses packets of data, which could going via different routes, taping the source makes sense.

  2. One Anonymous Knucklehead 2

    Buy shares in PGP and Tor.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1

      Too late , they are compromised by the NSA.

      I think this is the real reason for going after Megaupload, they were outside the control of the US and its spy agencies

      • Anne 2.1.1

        … the real reason for going after Megaupload, they were outside the control of the US and its spy agencies.

        That makes sense. I always thought the so-called abuse of copyright bit of nonsense didn’t sound right.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.2



        PS: scratch that, a citation for PGP will suffice.

      • infused 2.1.3

        They had access.

  3. tracey 3

    And then key words will be used to filter tge data. Then over worked analysts will make decisions on what to pursue further. If in doubt surveil.

  4. Rogue Trooper 4

    “move away from the keyboard and put down the touch-screen. Any attempts to call for accomplices via Bluetooth or escape through Google Glass will be met with extreme prejudice”.

  5. Sable 5

    Howard passed similar legislation to this in Australia. This is yet more dirty pro American legislation designed to curry favour with Nationals US based masters.

  6. vto 6

    Key has passed law to tap into our communications at some point in the future.

    Do not forget that Key has also passed law to tap into our bank deposits to save insolvent banks at some point in the future.

    Best stay off the net and out of banks.

  7. dv 7

    I can just imagine the Nacts being really pissed off when John Minto becomes PM and starts using the powers the Nact have set up!!!

    • Murray Olsen 7.1

      If John became PM, those powers would be repealed. Unlike Shearer, he’s not jealous of Key’s power. He actually believes in something a bit more worthwhile.

  8. Shaz 8

    There is a well worded petition on Avaaz against the Bill. Offered here in the spirit of everything counts in a last ditch effort against this toxic pair of bills. Avaaz has had several international successes with a variety of issues.


  9. Mary 9

    Andrew Scott Howman on RNZ this morning was talking about Bennett’s child abuse policy that’ll see people instantly dismissed on the basis of a suspicion or “scuttlebutt”. He asked whether this represented a society he wanted to live in:


    It was refreshing to hear Andrew describe the situation in such simple terms. It’s very easy to describe problems with the GCSB proposals and the long list of other attacks on democratic principles, natural justice, constitutional rights etc but to hear something so simple as what Andrew said resonated. We need more of this kind of simple but to the point analysis.

  10. SHG (not Colonial Viper) 10

    The whole point of the recent data-snooping firestorm is that Big Brother doesn’t care if you use encryption or not.

    Big Brother gets all the info it needs from the subject of your email, the time at which you emailed, the recipient of your email, the sender and time of any incoming email that might have spurred you to send something yourself, the sort of device you used to send the email, the web of contacts that you have in common with other people under surveillance, etc etc etc. Getting all that info does not require the ability to actually read your email.

    “Oh it’s OK I’ll ssh into an offshore server and send my email PGP’d and chained through three remailers with time delays” yeah right.

  11. infused 11

    ISPs are not going to comply. Just from a cost point of view. I’ve heard what they are asking of ISPs.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Funding is always available. The UK GCHQ received millions of dollars of funding from the NSA to implement specific programmes and activities.

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