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Interception Capability - Government Decisions

Associate Minister of Justice Paul Swain has confirmed the government’s decisions on telecommunications interception capability.

Paul Swain says the government indicated last year that it would be requiring public telecommunication networks to be interception capable for law enforcement and national security purposes.

“What I’m outlining today is how we expect that to happen,” Paul Swain said.

“The changes will be included in the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Bill which is currently being drafted.

“The Bill will place a legal obligation on network operators to be technically able to intercept communications going over their network, when authorised by Police, GCSB or SIS warrant. This legislation will affect all telecommunication network operators including ISPs with their own customer networks.

“The government will pay for the provision of interception capability for existing fixed and mobile voice networks to be implemented within 18 months from the date the legislation is enacted.

“Network operators will meet the cost of upgrading their networks to provide for the interception of internet and email services (with a five year implementation period from the date of enactment of the legislation) and for new or additional fixed or mobile services (with an 18 month implementation period).

“This gradual implementation period should help reduce the impact on the industry as some equipment will need replacing in this time anyway.

“It is easier and cheaper to install interception capability at the time of design and implementation of new networks than to upgrade existing networks.

Privacy Issues to be addressed

“Of course with any legislation dealing with people’s private information we have to make sure that privacy protections are built into the legislation. To do this we have included a number of provisions:

- Any interception will require an interception warrant to be issued by the High Court - as is the case now.

- Any interception warrant will only be able to be carried out with the authorisation and agreement of an officer or employee of the communications company.

- The interception will exclude communications not authorised to be intercepted.

- Telecommunications operators will not be required to decrypt any communication encrypted by a customer, unless the operator provided the encryption facility.

“Network operators will have to be able to:

- Exclusively isolate and intercept communications as authorised.

- Obtain relevant information about calls.

- Intercept unobtrusively while protecting the privacy of other communications.

- Obtain information in a usable format.

“This law on interception capability will bring us into line with legal requirements already in place in a number of different countries including the United States, Australia, Germany, Netherlands and the UK

“New Zealand has to make these changes to be certain our law enforcement and national security are not eroded by changes in technology, this has become particularly important given concerns about security internationally after the events of September 11,” Paul Swain said.


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