E-Mail Interception Bill Criticised

Opposition to New Zealand IT minister Paul Swain's proposed interception of e-mail bill is gathering, even before the bill has been written or put up for public debate.

Aziz Choudry, the anti-GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) activist whose house was illegally searched by the Security Intelligence Service, says the proposal is open to abuse.

"This could be used to justify further spying on lawful political organizations and individuals," says Choudry in a press release.

"Important privacy considerations aside, expanding police powers to allow the legal interception of e-mails will give them carte blanche to spy on organizations, trade unions and individuals ... because of their political beliefs."

United Party leader Peter Dunne also opposes the move.

"It is one more step down the slippery slope of intrusion into individual rights."

Dunne calls for the establishment of an independent public commission to look into all aspects of "individual privacy electronic communication and surveillance and computer systems generally".

Swain is unwavering and intends to bring the bill before a select committee in the next few weeks.

"At the moment police are unable to even intercept an e-mail and criminals know that and are moving more and more of their communication online."

Swain says New Zealand will not follow the U.K. proposal of a central office to trap every e-mail passing through ISPs (Internet service providers).

"I'm talking about giving police the capability to ask a high court judge for an interception order in just the same way they currently do for a telephone call."

Swain says he has no figures to back up his assertion that criminals are making greater use of the Net.

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