NZ could be ‘hacker-free’ haven for e-commerce

An individual submission to the Crimes Amendment Bill suggests making New Zealand a 'hacker-free zone' in the same spirit as it is known as a 'nuclear-free zone'.

An individual submission to the Crimes Amendment Bill suggests making New Zealand a “hacker-free zone” in the same spirit as it is known as a “nuclear-free zone”.

The submission on the supplementary provisions to Crimes Amendment Bill No 6 — the so-called “anti-hacking” bill — suggests that by prohibiting any form of hacking and avoiding any suggestion of Police and other authorities interfering with computer and telecommunications systems in New Zealand, the country could be made a “hacker-free zone”. International organisations could then be attracted to business in New Zealand and their data would be secure, suggests Don Murray Nielson, giving his address as “c/o parents”.

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties, for its part, says the proposed law as currently worded “could create an environment hostile to e-commerce, undermining the trust that is essential for the use of the internet.

“The council notes with interest that the Irish Republic has positioned itself as an e-commerce and high-technology haven passing legislation that has the opposite result to this [Police/SIS exemption] clause.”

Submissions on the SOP come from a wide variety of interests, but almost all express disquiet over the exclusions allowing Police and the Security Intelligence Service to hack into computer systems and intercept emails.

The bill, with its supplementary provisions, is currently before the Law and Order Select Committee, which has until May 15 to report back to Parliament.

There were 14 submissions on the original bill, which among other crime prevention measures seeks to prohibit intentional damage to computer systems, but 30 on the supplementary order paper, which extends the prohibition to non-damaging “hacking” and contain the exemption provisions.

Many make the point that in contradiction of the cliché, the innocent do have something to fear from the exemptions as written. Every email involves at least two individuals, points out Robyn Dann in an individual submission. To intercept the communications of a putatively guilty person therefore inevitably involves surveillance on the activities of a number of innocent people.

It is premature, say several submissions, to put forward a law in the abstract without any idea of how the measures will be implemented in practice. If the filtering of material of interest depends on a keyword search, for example, phrases like “our team bombed” and “the coach went ballistic” may be picked out for attention.

The Green Party suggests that the part of the bill granting exemptions for police and SIS be separated into another bill, for consideration at the same time as amendments to the Telecommunications Bill, which would more directly bear on the means of interception.

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