Analysis: The John and Kim show; other GCSB oral submission highlights

I'm not sure if it will change the course of the GCSB Bill

But the tail end of Kim Dotcom's appearance before the Intelligence and Security Select Committee was hugely entertaining.

Following a surreal suggestion from the PM that the GCSB was outsourcing work to other agencies in the same way companies "outsourced" file storage to Megaupload (don't ask), Labour leader David Shearer asked Dotcom if he thought John Key "was aware of your activities before the raid took place."

"Oh he knew about me before the raid. I know about that," Dotcom replied.

Then he turned to the PM.

Cue the following exchange (see a TVNZ clip of it here): 

Key: I didn't know.

Dotcom: "You know I know."

Key: "I know you don't know. I know you don't know, actually, but that's fine."

Dotcom: "Why are you turning red, Prime Minister?"

Key: "I'm not. Why are you sweating?"

Dotcom: "It's hot. I have a scarf."

Key: Well, go and check what you filed*

Sadly the Prime Minister, who was chairing the committee, decided to wrap it up moments later (saying to Dotcom's back, "See you later, it's been fun").

A majority of committee members voted against giving Dotcom a second extension (he had already spoken an extra seven minutes for 22 total.).

The PM perhaps looked a touch keen to get things over with.

I was watching the TV3.co.nz livestream (TVNZ also livestreamed; dibs to both broadcasters). As the screen blanked as Dotcom left, John Banks could be heard saying, "If we'd given him another 10 minutes, that would have ended in abuse."

Perhaps he had already forgotten the past two minutes.

Earlier, Dotcom proved he was an equal opportunity sparrer. In a zinger aimed at committee members Shearer, Dunne, and Banks, he said the "spy cloud" (shared intelligence with other countries) meant "You can know everything about your opponents instantly. How much money someone has in their New York bank account; who leaked secret a secret government report to the media, or who called one of their donors to thank him for a political donation he later declared anonymous."

"Lied to all New Zealanders"
In a standup press conference immediately afterwards, Dotcom said he had evidence the PM did know about him before the raid, saying John Key had just "lied to all New Zealanders."

It was a bold accusation, but nothing knew. The giant German has long maintained the Prime Minister knew about him before his January 20, 2011 arrest.

The PM says there is no such evidence; Dotcom says it will emerge at his extradition hearing.

Like East Germany or China
Although Dotcom offered the most theatre, it was almost inevitable his appearance would sludge into an argument over his own case, as it did.

Earlier submitters were at times more articulate in critiquing the GCSB Bill.

Among them was Tech Liberty's Thomas Beagle, who said the legislation, which would expand the GCSB's brief to do domestic spying, goes beyond minor tweaking.

"We see it as a moment that changes New Zealand from being a society that investigates bad guys... to being a surveillance state where the Government is always watching and recording everyone just in case they are thinking about doing anything wrong" he said.

"We believe that this bill is a serious threat to New Zealand’s democracy. It enables the GCSB to engage in mass surveillance of the New Zealand people in a matter more fitting to East Germany or China"

Key said the GCSB Bill's cybersecurity provisions would help all New Zealand companies.

ABOVE: InternetNZ's Chalmers and Carter make their submission.

ABOVE: Mega CEO Vikram Kumar.

Tech Liberty's Thomas Beagle submits. 

Entrepreneur and software developer Michael Koziarski.

Kim Dotcom's full submission.

Another submitter, newly-minted InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter, told the committee the GCSB was the wrong agency to deal with cybersecurity.

Beagle said on this point, "The GCSB’s new purpose of protecting NZ’s cybersecurity being used as an excuse to give them broad oversight and control of the country’s telecommunications networks." (Read his submission notes here).

Carter, joined by policy lead Susan Chalmers, also focused on the negative economic impact of the bill as the government sought to move more services online.

Chalmers also raised the issue of metadata, or anonymised data about data (for example, not recording a phone call, but capturing where you are when you make it, and who you call).

"Metadata should not be dismissed as something less important under privacy norms than the actual communication," Ms Chalmers said.

"Metadata can be more revealing about a person and their life than the person’s actual communications."

On encryption: point ...
The mood of submitters, and social media observers, was generally against the bill, but not exclusively.

Cloud computing consultant Ian Apperley (author of the recent post "How I learned to stop worrying and love PRISM") tweeted at one point: "John Key just slammed this. And he is absolutely bang on. if you don't like it, encrypt it. You can opt out of being spied on."

He later expanded to NBR, "One of the most interesting parts of yesterday’s submissions was when Internet NZ [CEO Jordan Carter and policy lead Susan Chalmers] were talking about the impact on the ICT Industry of the proposed legislation. One of the issues raised was that encrypted data is less able to be compressed than regular data and so we would use more of our bandwidth - a tenuous argument. The reason, they said, was that more and more people in New Zealand would choose to use encryption to protect themselves from spying.

"John Key seized on this, or had been very well briefed prior, and asked, 'Are you saying if people encrypt their communications the GSCB and other spy agencies can’t spy on them?'

"The answer was, 'Yes.' This led John Key to point out that people could then effectively opt out of spying by installing encryption tools. This is true, though of course not for everything."

... and counterpoint
Or maybe nothing. "The point that the that Mr Key made with respect to encryption failed to take into account the TICS Bill," Ms Chalmers later told NBR.

"Sections in the TICS Bill would require network operators and service providers to decrypt communications when they intercept them at the direction of the Prime Minister and the GCSB."

The two BIlls relate to each other quite significantly, the InternetNZ policy lead points out.

Apperley counters: "Decrypt communications? What with? A quantum computer and a decade of time?"

Well under the bill, all the major phone companies are deemed network operators - but the definition can also be extended to so-called over-the-top providers like Google and Microsoft, with their various services like Chat and Skype. But whether they would yield to a government request to decrypt - or leave a back door open - is another matter. Google and Microsoft were broadly hostile to the GCSB bill in their submissions. Some fear it's more likely they would give NZ a swerve rather than change their whole operation to meet an NZ law change.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

* "What you filed"? "What you fold"? The last word of the PM's enigmatic quip in inaudible. Suggestions welcome. It's 20 seconds into this clip.

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