New Zealand will rewrite laws governing how the country's spy agencies can intercept telecommunications, after an internal inquiry found one department spied on 88 NZ residents.
The proposed changes, announced today by NZ communications and information minister Amy Adams, mean telcos will be obliged to work with the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
The state spy agency has until now been tasked with providing foreign intelligence to New Zealand officials, and has been explicitly barred from intercepting residents' communications.
Adams said interception capability was vital for the government to protect the country from crime and safeguard national security.
"For example, interception of telecommunications has long been used to investigate and prosecute serious offending such as homicides and serious drug crimes."
"It has also been used in emergencies such as armed offender situations or kidnappings, to combat threats to national security, and prosecute cybercrime, both domestically and internationally,” Adams said.
The law changes would not reduce checks and balances on how police, security and intelligence agencies access and use private communications information. Nor would they alter existing legal privacy requirements imposed on telcos, the minister said.
A graduated enforcement regime with escalating responses if "significant national security risks are raised" would back up the proposed requirements on telcos, Adams said.
NZ Prime Minister John Key has since signalled sweeping reforms of the spy agency. He reportedly defended the GCSB and its interception of communications.
"There has been a disturbing escalation of cyber activities beyond simply exfiltrating data to actually altering data and systems - there have been covert attempts to acquire New Zealand science and technology for programmes relating to weapons of mass destruction or weapons delivery systems,'' Key reportedly told the New Zealand Herald.