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Agents of KAOS on the loose: Green Party says GCSB law threatens NZ ICT industry

Ian Apperley
Sat, 06 Jul 2013

In a surprise move today the Greens put out a press release entitled “GCSB Bills threaten ICT jobs“. Surprising for two reasons. First off, its nonsense and secondly, I didn’t realise that we had solar powered, organic computers available, because the Greens wouldn’t be using coal fired power station produced electricity now would they. This kind of fear, uncertainty, and doubt is annoying. So let’s get a few facts straight Russell.

According to Russell Norman:

“New spying laws before Parliament not only have the potential to significantly compromise our privacy, they risk future job creation and the growth of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in New Zealand, the Green Party said today.”

“New powers being given to the GCSB will slow software development and make our whole ICT industry susceptible to the additional costs and uncertainties of dealing with a non-transparent Government department.” 

And that’s it. The article lacks any evidence or logic as to why this would be the case. It’s a spurious headline in a debate that the Greens can’t seem to get their head around. If anything, you could argue that the legislation will increase work to the ICT industry as the investment required in telecommunications will be substantive.

Further, if the GCSB found that the telecommunications infrastructure was at risk, it could force further investment to build resilience.

In makes absolutely no difference at all to our burgeoning software industry. They simply do not care about the infrastructure as long as it is available.

As to the law itself, as I have argued before, its already redundant. This should be the primary reason that its abandoned. Encryption and other tools to protect your data are already available and often free. No amount of spying by the GCSB will allow them to look at double encrypted data without your key.

Encryption is our best defence against parties spying on us whether that surveillance is government sponsored or more nefarious. Russell Norman’s response to my “encrypt it to protect it” comment in a recent Dominion Post article on Prism was “we shouldn’t have to.” No, we shouldn’t have to, but we also shouldn’t have to lock our doors at night now should be. The reality is that you you’re basically an idiot if you leave your door open and expect nothing to get stolen.

The Green Press Release goes on to say:

“The ICT sector is a key part of a smart green economy in New Zealand. We want to unlock its potential, not hold it back with draconian legislation.” 

The irony here is sweet when one examines some of the Green policies for the ICT industry in New Zealand:

  • Encourage public scrutiny of any ICT system that is responsible for the safety of human life or for democratic processes.
  • Develop professional registration for ICT personnel working on safety critical applications
  • Review software used in the state sector, on an ongoing basis, for security issues.
  • Support legislation that increases the reliability of the Internet.
  • Ensure that copying, as defined in Intellectual Property (IP) law, applies to digital works.
  • Prohibit the removal of identifying data and distribution of altered digital work.
  • Ensure that ISPs are not liable for anything done via email, or via their service provision.

Brilliant isn’t. That list will slow down the ICT industry far more that the GCSB law ever will.

The sweetest irony is this:

  • Support legislation that increases the reliability of the Internet.

I think you’ll find that particular outcome is encapsulated in the GCSB law itself. Are they for are against here?

Ian Apperley is an independent cloud computing consultant. He posts at

Ian Apperley
Sat, 06 Jul 2013
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Agents of KAOS on the loose: Green Party says GCSB law threatens NZ ICT industry