Monday, March 10, 2008

SMS surveillance

For some years the Police wanted the right to tap internet communications like they could phone conversations, that right was granted after 9/11. Now the NZ Police want telcos to archive all text messages, so that, on the off chance any might be "suspect", they would all be stored.
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"our police want to archive everything we say, just on the oft-chance that one day they might be interested in it. But we don't let them force NZPost to photocopy every letter which goes through the mail, and we don't let them force Telecom to secretly record every phone conversation we have. We recognise and reject these as Orwellian demands, grossly invasive of privacy, and hugely open to abuse. Their demand that all TXTs be recorded and archived should be treated the same way."
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The Police quite clearly think we are all guilty till proven innocent, or more importantly the old adage "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear". Yes, that's what totalitarian regimes say when they raid homes, arrest without charge and interrogate. It's what the Stasi in East Germany thought.
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Don't forget the next will be emails. The Police will want all emails, all records of all internet communications to be archived forever. Besides being a gross imposition upon telcos, this suggestion is a grotesque invasion of the state into personal privacy.
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The Police needs warrants to enter private property, to tap phone lines and to open mail. They should need warrants to intercept text messages and emails too.
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Fighting crime is the core duty and role of the Police - but it is not something to be carried out at ANY cost. Yes it would be easier if the cops could access anything of ours without a warrant. More criminals would be caught. More would be caught still if the police could arrest without charge, but one hallmark of a free society is that we accept that some criminals will be free, in order for us to all have some measure of freedom and privacy. North Korea has precious little crime.
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According to Stuff "Police national crime manager Win van der Velde said that, though phone companies were private businesses, they also had a role as good corporate citizens."
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Respecting the privacy of its customers is being a good corporate citizen. Warrants are they right way for the Police to start intercepting the communications of suspects.
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However, see how quickly Labour or National hops on this bandwagon.... on the wrong side

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