Otago Daily Times

Civil lib­erty fears if data given up


WELLING­TON: Civil lib­er­ties groups be­lieve pri­vacy, free­dom of ex­pres­sion and the se­cu­rity of trade se­crets could be eroded if tech com­pa­nies give up their en­crypted data to gov­ern­ments.

The New Zealand Gov­ern­ment and its Five Eyes se­cu­rity part­ners are call­ing on com­pa­nies such as Face­book to re­lease data when re­quested, in or­der to curb on­line crime.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Andrew Lit­tle said while en­cryp­tion played an im­por­tant role in pro­tect­ing per­sonal data, it was also used to hide il­licit ma­te­rial such as child pornog­ra­phy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween ter­ror­ists.

Mr Lit­tle — who over­sees New Zealand’s spy agen­cies — said in­stances of child sex­ual abuse and ex­ploita­tion on­line were grow­ing rapidly.

To curb this, the Gov­ern­ment wants to co­op­er­ate with tech com­pa­nies.

And that would in­clude re­quests for in­for­ma­tion be­ing on a war­ranted ba­sis.

‘‘Gov­ern­ments would demon­strate there is a rea­son­able cause to sus­pect there has been crim­i­nal of­fend­ing, so the con­trol is still left in the plat­form own­ers, but it gives en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties the abil­ity to chase up and in­ves­ti­gate some of the most heinous crim­i­nal of­fend­ing we’ve ever seen.’’

But Coun­cil of Civil Lib­er­ties chair­man Thomas Beagle panned the Gov­ern­ment’s plea for more ac­cess as con­tra­dic­tory and dan­ger­ous.

‘‘It talks about the value of en­cryp­tion — se­cure in­for­ma­tion, pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, do­ing things free from re­pres­sive gov­ern­ments — and then it talks about how they need to stop all that be­cause they need to ac­cess it to stop crime.’’

Even if a New Zealand gov­ern­ment han­dled such in­for­ma­tion care­fully, that did not mean other coun­tries would. And if one gov­ern­ment had ac­cess to such in­for­ma­tion, then other gov­ern­ments would re­quest it as part of do­ing busi­ness with that coun­try, Mr Beagle said.

Sur­veil­lance had a chill­ing ef­fect on free­dom of ex­pres­sion and as­so­ci­a­tion, he said.

‘‘Our Gov­ern­ment al­ready has ex­ten­sive pow­ers of sur­veil­lance us­ing other means, and I don’t be­lieve this will be the sil­ver bul­let that will stop all this crime hap­pen­ing.’’

Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner John Ed­wards said agen­cies could al­ready be re­quired to hand over in­for­ma­tion if there was a law­ful war­rant.

‘‘Gov­ern­ments are quite right to be con­cerned about the use of plat­forms for ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren. The dif­fi­culty is in how you pro­vide that ac­cess in a way that does not break the se­cu­rity for le­git­i­mate pur­poses.’’

He said re­quire­ments for com­pa­nies to re­lease in­for­ma­tion would be ap­plied in all coun­tries, in­clud­ing op­pres­sive ones.

An in­ter­na­tional set of guide­lines could be es­tab­lished to set out how in­for­ma­tion was gath­ered but that would not be wa­ter­tight, he said.

‘‘Even then, you don’t solve the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge of al­low­ing ac­cess for le­git­i­mate pur­poses while main­tain­ing a se­cure net­work, and peo­ple in the tech in­dus­try tell me this is im­pos­si­ble.’’

Cul­tural ad­viser and ad­vo­cate for Maori dig­i­tal rights Karaitiana Taiuru said shut­ting down harm­ful be­hav­iour on plat­forms such as Face­book could ac­tu­ally help Maori, who faced racism, abuse and scams on­line.

It was often not re­ported be­cause there were no cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive sys­tems or agen­cies equipped to deal with com­plaints, he said. — RNZ

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