10 Mar 2014

Labour proposes Digital Bill of Rights

12:17 pm on 10 March 2014

The Labour Party says that if it becomes the government it will protect citizens from online mass surveillance by introducing a Digital Bill of Rights.

Labour has already said it would repeal legislation increasing the powers of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Leader David Cunliffe now says it would introduce a new law to protect people from the digital equivalent of warrantless phone-tapping. He says it would change the GCSB's ability to do blanket surveillance.

"It's a broad-brush power," Mr Cunliffe says, "and it is not backed up by the requirement in all circumstances - as I'm advised - to get a warrant. And although the Prime Minister said at one point in the parliamentary debate that he was happy to have warranting, the law does not require it - and it must."

Mr Cunliffe says Labour would also improve people's right to internet access by providing more opportunities in the community, including more free wi-fi hotspots.

The Telecommunications Users Association is welcoming the proposed bill, saying the potential for perpetual online surveillance needs to be looked at again. Chief executive Paul Brislen says law changes last year have widened the state's ability to spy on citizens, and that - combined with revelations about mass surveillance in the United States and Britain, which New Zealand is involved with through the Five Eyes network - shows a Digital Bill of Rights is needed.

Mr Brislen says the bill is a good first step, "but I think it's got to go a lot further than that. We need to make sure that our courts are involved in this process and not sidelined, and that our agencies are abiding by New Zealand law."