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Released e-mail snooping papers avoid real issue

28 May 2001

Papers avoid real issue - interception capability for e-mail snooping

Green Party Police Spokesperson Keith Locke says the real issue has been avoided in today's release of papers on Telecommunications Interception Capability.

"Mr Swain's media statement says nothing about the main purpose of forthcoming interception capability legislation, to allow the police and intelligence services to intercept our emails," said Mr Locke.

"Telephone voice intercepts (including from mobile phones) are already made available to the police by telecommunications providers.

"The new threat to privacy is the inclusion, under Crimes Amendment Bill (No 6) of the police's right to intercept email. The government wants all telecommunications companies to be required to provide the police and intelligence services with the capability to intercept anyone's email," he said.

"The documents released today show the Privacy Commissioner had major concerns about requirements for voice communications interceptions, in that independent audits of interception requirements were not in place, and extra interception capability might create a vulnerability to unauthorised interception.

"We should worry even more about confidentiality of our emails which, through modern technology, can be intercepted on a vastly greater scale than voice messages. The FBI's Carnivore system uses 'key word' trawling to search through the emails of millions of people.

"Our fear that a Carnivore-like system will be implemented here is heightened by a reference in the documents released today to 'international requirements for interception capability'," said Mr Locke.

"The documents released today avoid the question of what will be required of Internet Service Providers, through which emails are routed. The papers only refer to telecommunications companies. It is hard to intercept emails without the cooperation of the ISPs in that messages are sent between providers in small unintelligible bits, not as complete messages.

"The Green Party will be seeking an assurance from the government that ISPs will not have to cooperate with email snooping," said Mr Locke.


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