Google vs the court system of New Zealand

OPINION

Paul Brislen

Paul Brislen says Google's claim it can't abide NZ court rulings has raised eyebrows.

Just as the new Privacy Bill is being constructed and discussed, news that Google declines to abide by New Zealand law with regard to court-mandated suppression orders is sure to play a large role in shaping the way new laws are introduced.

Following so quickly as it does Facebook's continuing debacle over the way the company collects data and shares with third-party providers, Google's claim that it cannot abide by New Zealand court orders is sure to raise some eyebrows about the role these giant data collection agencies play in our modern lives.

According to the New Zealand Herald, despite a court order requiring all publishers remove references to the first trial of a man accused of a double killing, to ensure his second trial proceeded without prejudice, Google refused, claiming its search engine is domiciled in the US and so does not need to comply with New Zealand laws.

Facebook has argued the same with its decision to base the company in Ireland for tax purposes – something that has become problematic since the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect later in the month. Facebook has said it will deploy GDPR-compliant terms and conditions for EU-based users but not for the rest of us.

A Google spokesman says that while Google New Zealand is bound by New Zealand laws, Google LLC is not.

Of course, while Google and others claim that abiding by New Zealand laws would be terribly onerous, putting tremendous strain on company resources as they would be forced to police trillions of web pages, such companies have no problem abiding by German laws relating to Nazi symbols or Holocaust denials. Perhaps the multi-million dollar fines play a part in that decision.

All of these decisions do raise questions of cross-border legalities, how we can be assured of representation and legal rights in an era where the companies collecting and mining our data can simply claim not to exist (for legal purposes) within our jurisdiction and the continuing tussle between legal and commercial worlds. As part of that debate, the Human Rights Commission has released a report, Privacy, Data and Technology: Human Rights Challenges in the Digital Age, that looks at the domestic and international human rights principles and how they apply in New Zealand. 

While this report looks at the public sector's use of algorithms, perhaps it is time to consider the private sector as well.

This content first appeared on TechBlog.


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34 Comments & Questions

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Simple, dont use it if you dont like it. Same as Facebook, you're not obliged to use their services. NZ's outdated regulatory framework needs to adapt much better. All this non sense argument is costing no one but the tax payers.

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But of course, that's not how it works. Facebook, for instance, now offers the app as a built-in service on some Android phones in the US - even if you never activate the apps, you still get tracked by ... Facebook.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/22/facebook_data_leak_no_account/

Companies pretending to be domiciled in one country for tax purposes and in another for legal purposes and operating in a third country because that's where the customers are... I suspect that's a bigger problem and one we must resolve or we'll end up in a world where a handful of large multinationals control not only our information flows but also our retail spend, yet return nothing of value to the countries in which they operate and who also refuse to abide by local law.

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True, but the world has always been controlled by a handful of multinationals, and I would argue that the likes of FB & GOOG have provided much more value to humanity than the likes of VW or BP, in which the govt seems to turn a blind eye to.

There seems to be a lot of clickbait articles focused on data tracking, and it's no coincidence that it's mostly the older generation who feed into this type of content. Without your permission, an app cannot legally extract/share your information. I suggest watching the congress hearing with Zuckerberg just to get a taste of the ignorance coming out of lawmakers. 2/3 of them can barely operate a smart phone let alone understand the mechanics of data sharing.

And at the end of the day, you share only what you choose to share right?

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I watched the US congress "interview" Zuckerberg and it was just as bad as the Skynet debate here in New Zealand (or hearing about the select committee questioning Uber about parking on a taxi rank). They're hopeless.

But I fear your assertion that "you share only what you chose to share" is untrue and hasn't been for some time. Between metadata (where you are, who you spoke to before and after a given call, what device you're using, how long you used it for and so on) and the kinds of integrated tracking of your online activity that we know Facebook sells to its advertiser base, the era of only sharing when you chose to is long over. Now, we share by default and must find the off switch if we want to stop.

That's one of the reasons I deleted my Facebook account. There is simply no way to effectively manage such a page and retain control over your own information. That's not always an option - and a large percentage of New Zealanders use Facebook multiple times each day.

That gives FB, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix et al a significant amount of access to you, the product, all without any ability for you, the citizen, to call on legal redress should something go wrong.

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Don't buy those phones then.

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Making the comment that--should people not wish to have their private lives raided--they should not buy X phone or service promotes a privileged and exploitative perspective.

All people have the right to protections and in purchasing a device, they are not selling their immortal souls.

There should be protections against exploitation and sufficiently plain language explanations ensuring they know what their rights and choices are.

Their rights should then be intact and not "updated" by the supplier every 24 hours.

NZ's legal framework is evolving and should be complied with. You cannot drive on the right hand side of the road here, just because you work for "GOOG" offshore.

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But you are selling your privacy for a cheaper device. If enough people wanted to keep their data private and therefore pay a higher price for their email, phones etc then there would be a market.

Me, I'm more than happy to get the benefits that Google, Facebook et al provide me in exchange for them knowing the types of cat videos that I enjoy watching. I trust them far more with my data than I do the Government, for example (which is why I don't complete the census).

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If you feel no need to fulfill your duties as a citizen, feel free to emigrate anytime.
You have that choice.

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Possibly one of the most stupid comments ever written; congratulations.

As a free individual it is my right to have as little to do with the authoritarians in Wellington as I can. I pay my taxes so that they keep their goons away from me; in return I expect them to leave me alone.

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Liberatarian nonsense. You pay so you can use the facilities and infrastructure, and to help maintain a functioning society. As I reminded you, you can leave at anytime but few places would take a tax avoider. You libertarians all "what is mine is mine" and everyone else can pay for what is needed for your economic survival. Yet how quickly you call for Police when so one threatens your property or safety.

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James, you assume people have a choice.

Many people (an increasing number) cannot just decide to buy the expensive device. Saying that those who can afford privacy can by an expensive device and have it, and those who cannot afford it will have to go without a device or give up their privacy is fueling the digital divide.

The right to privacy should be a basic human right in New Zealand and not the privilege of the wealthy.

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But the reason that the devices and services are cheap (or, indeed free) is that the companies make their money by analysing and utilising your data. Take that ability away from them and everybody will have to pay a higher price for devices and e-services. In which case the ability to use them at all becomes a privilege of the wealthy - rather than the more equal access that we currently share.

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I see your point James, but the question is the degree to which data is extracted, the consumer's ability to be informed and opt in and out, and the difference between reasonable access and profit making versus exploitation and profiteering.

In addition, a fair playing field in terms of a consumer's ability to maintain privacy and access (which is an economic issue, but can also be resolved by technology).

Technologists such as FB, Microsoft and Google have been overstepping the mark, and there is no good reason for this. They are not starving in the metaphorical streets.

Balance must be sought. Good, clear, information. The ability to opt out. Variations in device availability. A good legal regime that protects individual and corporate rights to privacy etc.

Complicated but worthwhile work for Government.

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Facebook track you even if you just use a browser. Links from your device go out to Facebook from google. Also from your bookmarks, RSS feeds, if you have any bookmark even mentioning Facebook. Facebook is the new Borg.

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Yes, that confirms nothing has changed. It also says very little about how the data that gets used. And it also avoids mentioning shadow data collection on behalf of shadow govt. organizations which by govt. shadow ops regulations they cannot mention.
No shadow govt. org makes public its shadow data collection activities in the same way it does not publish data on people going into private witness protection as it would the purpose of being private. What must be kept from the public is kept from the public. Both Google and Facebook have clandestine links to and from the likes of the CIA and NSA. Neither organizations are stupid, they know the value of realtime data on persons or groups of interest.

Steve jobs fought bitterly to keep the NSA out of Apple products. The grass hadn’t yet grown over his funeral plot before they were in there boots and all.

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Google ignores nz laws, indie gogo ignore nz laws. Uber used to ignore nzta driver requirements. Perhaps it is time for an nz firewall? Then the courts could block pages that disclose suppressed information. Nzta could have blocked uber when they weren't complying and the commerce commission could block indie gogo. It should be first the responsibility of the organisation but if they refuse nz needs some sort of enforceable action.

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So you're happy to welcome Big Brother in this way?

I think naming and shaming in the town square works better - this is how supermarket chains and the like respond proactively to consumer concerns without any need for a regulator to step in

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You must work for SkyTV. Didnt they want that some time ago? thankfully its gone quiet.

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Reminds me of an early case (1/2 way down this article nbr.co.nz/opinion/google…) where Google NZ said Google US was responsible for a post an NZ psychiatrist wanted taken down (details of the reasons were suppressed in a High Court hearing.

It's a moot point whether Google is defending free speech or taking the cheapest operational path and/or pushing its "the buck stops with Google in the US" line because it knows few New Zealanders will have the means to mount legal action in the US.

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Everyone country have different laws, and countries have conflicting laws, it simply won't work if you expect internet companies to comply with every country's law. If they're based in the US then obviously they're should only comply to the US laws, if you don't like then it is too bad really, people should be more accepting of the fact that things cannot be perfect.

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Everything should be a choice and using their services is a choice. Take the time to read the 20 plus page disclaimer or don’t it’s your choice just don’t bi$ch if you’ve hit accept. If you can’t be bothered to make a choice move to China where some freedoms are limited such as access to websites etc.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-internet-crackdown-v...

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Google present search results, they do not publish content. The NZ courts should prosecute the companies and/or individuals that own the websites that have published the information, not the search engines that have indexed and present a link to them because they match a user-defined set of criteria.

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Exactly.
If Google stop indexing them, the content remains, to be found by other search engines. Google is not the only pathway.

Disclosure:- Google employs a family member, who had no input into this post of mine.

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It's beyond time to exercise our rights as a sovereign nation.

We have, for example, the right to prevent Google from ding business here if they do not obey our laws. Ultimately that might even mean banning New Zealanders and NZ companies from paying any Google entity any money.

Show some teeth NZGov.

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That's right Mr Wiggs, They are all "fools and liars" anyway. What would they know about anything?

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Neither NZGov nor Google are climate change deniers.

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The comments on this article are quite literally hurting my brain, I don't even know where to start. To the bar I say!

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Come on Ian, have a couple and get back into this, you provide a good read

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Heh. My first thought is that there is no way we can opt out. Its not possible. But... I shall think on it and have another beer.

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You don't know where to start, just Google it.

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Google is right....unfortunately.

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Human rights laws regarding humanity should be following through and be respected unless you're bloody son of an animal.

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Google has a massive "Deletion Centre" in Berlin for compliance with laws there - five stories, staffed by 1200 content moderators. Trauma specialists on call... 50 million Euro fines, you see. So maybe pass legislation to fine them huge amounts for privacy breaches.

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