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InternetNZ boss slams mass collection of Pacific data

The allegation that New Zealand has conducted mass data harvesting on its Pacific Island neighbours raises concerns about New Zealanders’ communications being collected, says InternetNZ.

“If the allegations are correct, then New Zealand would be mining data about everyone in the Pacific Islands named in the allegations,” Jordan Carter, InternetNZ chief executive, says in a statement.

“That’s everyone. Not just individuals who attract specific surveillance warrants, but everyone. This means local residents to visiting Kiwi tourists could be having their data collected,” he says.

Carter says InternetNZ has long asserted that people should be able to live in a world free from unnecessary mass data harvesting. “New Zealand should not be collecting mass data on New Zealanders or on anyone else.”

“The ‘If you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear’ argument has been the catch-cry of those justifying such programmes,” says Carter. “But mass collection means whoever you are and whatever you’ve done, your data gets collected and could later be examined by the security services.”

He continues, “Coming on the back of Customs seeking the power to force travellers to give up passwords to their cellphones and laptops, if the allegations published today are correct, a New Zealander going on holiday to the Pacific Islands would face New Zealand’s security agencies recording all their calls and emails to family back home. Customs could then demand their laptop or phone passwords when they come back.”

“New Zealanders have some questions to ask,” Carter adds. “Do we want to be a country where we have to give up our right to privacy just in case there is something to be found?

“Or do we want to be a country where we are free to go about our daily lives, where we can innovate, do business, play and work in a way that is our own – and not the business of someone else? Where use of the Internet doesn’t simply become a system for the government to record everything we do?

“Targeted, warranted surveillance is a part of modern life. Surveillance on the back of mass collection of data shouldn’t be.”