ICT groups call for more consultation on spy Bills

The US PRISM scandal has prompted a group of New Zealand ICT organisations to call for an extension to submissions on two Bills

Revelations about the US electronic surveillance progamme PRISM have led a group of New Zealand ICT organisations to send an open letter to Prime Minister John Key and Law and Order Committee Chair Jacqui Dean calling for an extension to submissions on the TICS and GCSB Bills currently out for consultation.

The letter, signed by InternetNZ, TUANZ, NZRise, CatalystIT and the Institute of IT Professionals, calls for more time to study the impact recent revelations about PRISM will have on the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security (TICS) and Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment (GCSB) Bills.

Submissions were due by tomorrow but the group says that in light of the secretive and serious nature of PRISM, more time is needed to evaluate and prepare considered responses.

In the letter, the organisations say: "A number of us have previously requested a modest extension on these Bills. PRISM, however, raises complex issues that relate to the TICS and GCSB Bills. These issues are still unfolding and, accordingly, we require more time to evaluate and prepare considered responses. We request that the submission deadline for each Bill be extended by two to four weeks."

Last week news broke which revealed that end-user communications, both stored and in real-time, are collected and intercepted, analysed and disseminated by the US government and its intelligence partners.

Ex-CIA operative Edward Snowden leaked top secret documents about PRISM, which is administered by the US National Security Agency, allegedly in conjunction with leading Internet companies such as Google and Facebook.

InternetNZ acting chief executive Jordan Carter says a great deal of New Zealanders' internet traffic over PRISM partners' services will have passed and is passing through the United States.

New information about PRISM is coming to light very rapidly, and further and more detailed information is expected to be revealed in coming months, Carter says in a statement.

"Those intending to file a submission on the TICS and GCSB Bills must now reconsider their position on important sections within these Bills, including interception of customers' electronic communications and the collection and sharing of electronic information between surveillance agencies.

"PRISM raises a number of important questions in both the TICS and GCSB Bills that require further analysis in order to fully understand how New Zealand internet users are affected."

TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen says the revelations of the past week mean it's vital the implication of the international regime be included in any submission.

"It's important we get a clear view of just what the news coming out of the US could mean for these two pieces of legislation. Parliament wants to pass robust legislation that stands the test of public scrutiny and can be used properly by the agencies involved."

IITP Chief Executive Paul Matthews says "given the international developments in recent days, it has become even more essential that the issues covered by these Bills be considered carefully. Rushing these through via a significantly condensed consultation process simply doesn't bode well for good outcomes for New Zealand."

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