IT managers have judge's sympathy

AUCKLAND (03/23/2004) - If IT managers are bamboozled by the deluge of new laws affecting them, they have the understanding of the country's most ICT-savvy judge.

David Harvey, who sits in the Manukau District Court and lectures on IT law issues at the University of Auckland, says an IT manager needs to keep the phone number of their lawyer close at hand after new laws extend the power of investigative authorities to demand access to digital records.

"I didn't know about this stuff six months ago and I've been in the game for 30 years," Harvey told attendees at an IT Security Forum meeting in Auckland.

He was referring to far-reaching legislative changes that flow from the Crimes Amendment Act 2003 and Counter-Terrorism Act, both passed last year. The new statutes include provisions which change the way several existing laws apply.

Harvey says the intent of the new laws is to extend powers of interception to electronic communications. However, they introduce numerous untested definitions which can "catch a whole lot of stuff that previously the authorities weren't entitled to intercept".

Auckland consultant Pat Rossiter, who heard Harvey's presentation, finds the interplay of the various new laws disconcerting.

"It's more of a civil liberties issue than anything else." He says IT managers issued with a warrant to hand over electronic records "could chew up an awful lot of hours" looking for data, with no right of recourse.

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