TICS bill submission

I recently contributed to a submission on the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill, a rather rushed and ill-considered piece of legislation that has massive potential for abuse by future governments, and which places unreasonable costs and procedures on people providing Internet services.

The introduction reads:

We explain in this Select Committee submission our opposition to the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill on the grounds that—as currently drafted—it is unclear, will not achieve its purpose, and is likely to have unintended consequences that undermine its purpose.

We further argue that New Zealand’s interests—in terms of national security, economic well-being, and protection of citizens’ basic privacy rights—will be best served if New Zealand businesses have the flexibility to innovate, compete, and succeed in creating products and services that provide robust protection for the privacy rights of their customers, while also effectively supporting legitimate interception capabilities required by law where applicable.

To commit the resources and effort required for such innovation, and to be able to attract investment to support growth, businesses need a clear understanding of their obligations, and confidence that these obligations will not unexpectedly change in fundamental ways through no fault of their own.

The remainder of our submission argues the following high-level points:

  • As reinforced by a recent United Nations Human Rights Council report, privacy is a fundamental human right that communications surveillance frameworks must protect.
  • The proposed legislation is unclear on a number of critical issues regarding which businesses are affected, what services are affected, and what obligations businesses have regarding interception capabilities; furthermore, it does not provide businesses sufficient predictability about their ongoing obligations.
  • This lack of clarity and predictability can produce negative side effects and unintended consequences that affect New Zealand’s national security and economic well-being, as well as New Zealanders’ safety and human rights.
  • Despite the numerous disadvantages the proposed legislation would impose on the legitimate activities of government, business, and citizens, it will not enable interception of communications using noncompliant services, which will be most attractive to the individuals whose communications will be most important to intercept.

Conclusion: The proposed legislation as currently drafted is not clear enough to fully evaluate, but nonetheless raises significant concerns that it may be ineffective and have unintended consequences that undermine its primary objectives. Therefore, we oppose the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill in its current form.

You can read the full submission on the Parliament web site.