Guest article: Public registers & privacy - NZ DNS introduces IRPO

Occasionally we publish guest articles about matters relevant to civil liberties in New Zealand. The following article discusses an important change in how people can register New Zealand domain names (.nz) while still maintaining their privacy.

The author, Kieran Reid, works at Freeparking, a domain registrar and web host company based in New Plymouth and Auckland.

Secret evidence unacceptable

The recent court case in Wellington where evidence was withheld from the defendant and their lawyer in the name of national security is highly concerning.

Official Information Act review requires public participation

We welcome the government's commitment to review the Official Information Act as part of a wider move to improve open government in New Zealand.

We have written to Clare Curran, the Minister for Open Government, and Andrew Little, the Minister of Justice, to discuss how this should be done, in particular:

Police backdoor access to private data

Once again it seems that the banks have been handing over private customer information to the Police. They handed over Kim Dotcom's, they handed over Nicky Hager's, and this time they've handed over information about activist and journalist Martyn Bradbury. And, as far as we know, they've handed over information for a lot of people that none of us have ever heard of.

Do the telephone companies store SMS texts?

The question came up online of whether New Zealand telephone companies store SMS text messages, and whether they then make them available, after the fact, to Police and intelligence agencies. (Note that interception warrants can be applied that capture all communications as they occur.)

We talked to Spark about their policies and they told us:

  • They keep the contexts of SMS messages for 30 days.
  • They keep call and SMS metadata (from, to, time duration) for 7 years.


Customs, compelled device unlocking, and PR spin

Stuff reports:

A new law means Customs will no longer be able to demand that people entering the country hand over the passwords to their devices without reasonable cause.

Why we support effective encryption

We know that encryption was on the agenda at the recent Five Eyes spy network meeting in Ottawa, with Australia taking the lead in calling for law enforcement and spy access to encrypted messages:

Letter to Peter Dunne re the failure of oversight of the DIA's internet filter by the IRG

Dear Peter Dunne,

We write to you in your capacity as the Minister of Internal Affairs.

The Facts

It has recently come to our attention that the Independent Reference Group, the body providing oversight of the DCEFS internet filter run by the Department, has not met since August 2015. 

According to an OIA response from Stephen Waugh, Manager Censorship Compliance, on 9th December 2016, this is because:

NZ Council for Civil Liberties Chairperson's Report 2016

I've been Chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties for two years now and therefore it's time for my second chairperson's report.

It's been a fairly quiet year for the council. We have contributed to some issues but others we have had to let pass by without anyone providing a civil liberties perspective. It's been heartening to see groups such as JustSpeak (criminal justice reform) and the HRLA (Human Right's Lawyers Association) speak on some of these.

Initial reaction to the New Zealand Security & Intelligence Bill

The new Security and Intelligence Bill does a lot.

The huge scope is why we're still working on our analysis of the Bill and what it means for civil liberties.

But we do have some initial reactions.

Resources: NZ Intelligence & Security Bill Government has just announced the introduction of the NZ Intelligence & Security Bill 2016. This is a complete replacement of four existing laws based on the recommendations of the Intelligence Review.

This article is a collection of links to the current and proposed law, the reports, and articles and commentaries about the changes.

Liberty Watch April-May 2016

Round up of civil liberty news for April and May.

Speech: It's about power, not privacy


Speech given by NZCCL chairperson Thomas Beagle to the Rotary Forum - The Privacy Security Dilemma.


I'm not here to talk about privacy, I'm here to talk about power.

It's become increasingly clear to me that privacy, while important, is not a sufficient lense with which to look at the changes that are happening as human society digitises itself.

AboutMe is to privacy as FYI is to the OIA

The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner has launched a new tool, AboutMe, to help people request their personal infomation from a wide range of government agencies and businesses.

Libertywatch March 2016

Round up of civil liberty related news in March 2016.

Libertywatch February 2016

Round up of civil liberty related news from February 2016.

Criminal Justice

More prison cells could be 'double-bunked'

Up to 130 more prison cells could be "double-bunked" to cope with an unexpected increase in the prison population, Corrections chief Ray Smith said while facing questions in a select committee about plans to cope with a record-high prison muster. 

The gaping hole at the heart of the Intelligence Review

The need to maintain both security and the rights and liberties of New Zealanders has been at the forefront of our minds.

If your report into the intelligence services has a title like 'Intelligence and Security in a Free Society', surely you've got some obligation to put a bit of effort into the "free society" part?

Libertywatch January 2016

Corruption Index

New Zealand falls again in Corruption Index

New Zealand has fallen to fourth place in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). This is its second consecutive drop in a survey it has previously topped 7 times because of the corruption-free reputation of its public sector.

"Our government must act immediately to re-establish New Zealand's stand-out reputation for a trusted public sector…New Zealand trades on its corruption free reputation", said Transparency International New Zealand Chair, Suzanne Snively. 

Libertywatch December 2015

A round up of civil liberty related news articles from December 2015.

Libertywatch November 2015

Round up of civil liberty news from November 2015.

Government ignores High Court, won't change prisoner voting law

The Government has now given its answer - "The Government has no current plans to introduce legislation allowing prisoners to vote."

When the Government passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill in 2010 it chose to ignore the submissions from civil society groups, it chose to ignore the Attorney-General, and it chose to ignore the NZ Bill of Rights Act. It also ignored the landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights case where a similar ban on prisoner voting was found to be against the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government has now chosen to also ignore the High Court of New Zealand and its declaration that the law is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Libertywatch October 2015

A round-up of civil liberties related news from October 2015.


Police control of information is anti-democratic and must stop

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned about the revelations from Dr Jarrod Gilbert today. In his article in the NZ Herald, he asserts that the Police:

Chairperson's Report 2015

I was elected as the chairperson of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties at last year’s AGM. At the time I wrote about how and why civil liberties matter to me. Ultimately I, “…believe that a freedom and rights-based democracy is the best way to build a society that gives everyone the chance to be the best they can be.”

But when I look at the events of the past year, I fear that we’re going backwards.

NZ spies deny public relations blitz

The SIS and GCSB both deny creating a communications plan/media strategy for the 2015 Intelligence Review. Apparently the wave of public appearances around the time when public submissions closed (feature in the Listener, radio interviews, newspaper articles) was all just a coincidence.

Libertywatch September 2015

A round-up of civil liberties related news from September 2015.


Publishing legal opinions - the SIS and GCSB respond

Back in March we wrote a letter to the NZSIS and GCSB with a suggestion about how they could improve transparency and oversight without risking New Zealand's security. We also copied the letter to the IGIS to see if they had any comment. Our suggestion was:

It is my understanding that the GCSB | SIS does prepare legal analyses of the various parts of the Act so as to ensure that staff act within the letter of the law. My suggestion is that the agency should make these legal analyses (edited for security reasons as required) publicly available. As these legal analyses would only discuss the publicly available law, I believe that making them public would not risk New Zealand's security. This would lead to a better public understanding of what the GCSB | SIS can and cannot do under the current law thereby reducing uncertainty and increasing trust.

After some nagging of a rather tardy GCSB, we now have responses from all three.

Letter: Where's the govt action on prisoners' right to vote?

We are concerned by the lack of action from the Government in response to Arthur Taylor's successful challenge to the law taking away prisoner's right to vote. The decision of the High Court to declare the law to be inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act is unprecedented and surely calls for a legislative response.

Accordingly we have written to Amy Adams, the Minister of Justice, and Chris Finlayson, the Attorney-General, to ask them how and when they intend to remedy the situation.

Libertywatch August 2015

A round up of civil liberty related news from August 2015.

Libertywatch July 2015

A round-up of civil liberty news from New Zealand.