New Zealand Passes Telecoms Interception Bill for Spying on Email, Texts, Calls

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By Reissa Su | November 6, 2013 1:12 PM EST

The New Zealand Parliament has passed a new law, requiring telecommunication companies to allow intelligence agencies to access their subscriber's emails, calls and texts. Under the Telecommunications Interceptions and Security Capability Bill, companies will need to consult with the spy agency doing the eavesdropping.

The new law will compel telecommunications companies to consult with New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) when planning to develop new networks and infrastructure. The GCSB will need to install interception and spying equipment on the new infrastructures.

The telecommunications interception law has narrowly passed Parliament with 61 votes to 59. The GCSB will have similar powers as the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

The GCSB shares massive data with its counterparts in the UK and U.S. through the electronic espionage alliance along with Australian and Canadian spy agencies dubbed as the "Five Eyes."

The Greens party co-leader Russel Norman said signing and passing the legislation is part of New Zealand's membership in the electronic espionage alliance.

Labour spokesman Grant Robertson said the passing of the bill only indicates that the GCSB is being used by international agencies to conduct surveillance activities Kiwis are not comfortable with.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he has refused to reveal any information regarding the sharing of data between the GCSB and the espionage alliance network. Communications Minister Amy Adams said the bill will promote public safety and security.

The New Zealand government has rejected the appeal of tech companies to be exempt from the controversial spy law.  The bid of the Internet's Big Four was rejected after Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo sent a letter to Communications Minister Amy Adams to express their concern regarding the new Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill.

The country's latest spy bill seeks to require Internet service companies and network operators to provide access to spy agencies and allow them to monitor communications. If passed, the bill will allow the intelligence agency minister to place "interception obligations" on these tech companies. The Big Four also offers messaging services which New Zealand wants to monitor. 

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