New Zealand passes controversial spy law

New Zealand government has given its final nod to the controversial and highly debated Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spy bill just before a few hours. The bill was passed with a narrow margin of 61 to 59 votes.

With the law in place, New Zealand’s spy agency can legally support local law enforcement agencies and national defense forces by carrying out surveillance operations on citizens as well as residents. Many believe that the law will give government enough powers to violate the privacy of its citizens and residents.

Prime Minister John Key is having a different opinion though and while starting the debate today he said that the bill wouldn’t expand the powers of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies but, it simply fixes an Act which was put in practice about a decade ago by Labour government at the time. The PM added that the bill simply states “what the GCSB may and may not do.” The PM further said that surveillance wouldn’t be allowed without warrants.

Many have equated the bill to a formal approval to NSA-like surveillance activities. Kim Dotcom urged New Zealanders to oppose the bill and has also revealed at the time that he was planning to shift his secure email and messaging service to Iceland if the GCSB bill was passed by the government.

Following revelations that NSA was involved in and capable of carrying out surveillance of encrypted emails two of the top secure email services Lavabit (used by Snowden) and Silent Circle shut their services to protect data of their clients.

Government surveillance isn’t restricted to just a few countries and there have been instances where spyware is being used at a national level to carry out digital surveillance on citizens and residents. A governmental spyware dubbed FinSpy – developed by a UK based company Gamma International – is known to have been deployed by governments of multiple countries.