This oral submission concentrated on two misconceptions that we see as underpinning the bill: that speech should never harm anyone, and that different rules should apply to speech online and offline.
We then discussed problems with the effectiveness of the bill - and how it might not be that useful for victims of digital harms but might be quite handy for people who want to suppress the views of others.
We believe that this Bill is based on false premises about the nature of freedom of expression and the differences between digital and non-digital speech. We see the Bill as being a well-meaning but misguided threat to the civil liberties of New Zealanders. We fear that the Bill will be ineffective in too many cases where it might be needed most, while being too effective in the cases which are most problematic to civil liberties.
We support the establishment of an agency to assist those harmed by harmful communications and believe that this will go a long way to resolving the types of situations that can be resolved.
We believe that the court proceedings are unfair and unlikely to be of much use. We support the discretion and guidelines given to the court in making a judgement, but believe that the procedures of the court need to better take into account the requirements for a fair trial.
The safe harbour provisions for online content hosts are unreasonable. While online content hosts do need protection from liability, the suggested mechanism amounts to a way that any person can get material taken down that they don’t like for any trivial reason. This section needs to be completely rethought in the context of overseas experiences to ensure that freedom of expression is properly protected.
The new offence of causing harm is poorly conceived and criminalises many communications that are of value to society. If not removed in its entirety, defences and an overriding Bill of Rights veto should be added.
We have also made comments on the changes to the Harassment and Crimes Acts.
Text of our submission to the Law and Order Select Committee re the Telecommunications (Interception Capability & Security) Bill.
I represent Tech Liberty, we’re a group dedicated to defending civil liberties in the digital age.
In general we support the ability of the government to have interception capabilities on telecommunications where possible, when those interception capabilities have suitable oversight and control. However we fear that technological development is slowly making this lawful intercept regime increasingly irrelevant.
We’ll be addressing this and some other elements of the first two parts of the bill, before talking about the proposal to make the GCSB responsible for cyber security in New Zealand.
Full text of the Tech Liberty submission to the Law & Order Select Committee concerning the Telecommunications (Interception Capability & Security) Bill.
In general we support the ability of the government to have interception capabilities on telecommunications where possible, when those interception capabilities have suitable oversight and control. We have made some technical suggestions on how Part 2 - Interception Duties could be improved and clarified:
- Publish a list of service providers with interception responsibilities.
- Remove the ability for the Minister to ban the resale of overseas services.
- Clarify the duty to decrypt to indicate that it does not require network providers to supply deliberately weakened encryption with government backdoors.
We reject the idea that the GCSB should have oversight and control of communications networks in New Zealand. No need for this has been established and the use of an agency whose main focus is spying on external organisations is inappropriate and open to abuse. We therefore recommend the removal of Part 3 - Network Security in its entirety, possibly to be replaced by the establishment of a coordinating and consultative, not controlling, network security body.
Finally, we find the idea of evidence being presented in court that cannot be seen by the defendant and their lawyer to be extremely offensive to the right to a fair trial as promised by section 25 of the Bill of Rights Act. We therefore recommend the removal of Subpart 8 - Protecting Classified Information (sections 96-98). If this is retained we recommend that the appointment of a special advocate as in 97(3)(c) should be mandatory rather than optional.
Text of our submission to the Select Committee about the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. Or download the PDF version.
The Ministry of Economic Development recently asked for submissions on the topic of digital enforcement in the ACTA treaty. We submitted a submission, as did 33 other organisations and individuals.
We requested copies of them under the Official Information Act; here they are in PDF format (we'll do another post with the earlier submissions):