China has become New Zealand’s biggest trading partner. Surely it is not in our interests to continue to spy on China’s communications, as the Government Communications Security Bureau does through the Waihopai satellite communications interception station.
National and Labour politicians are living in a dream world if they think that there won’t eventually be a kickback from Beijing.
A Boundless Information map (released by whistleblower Edward Snowden) shows that Chinese communications are heavily targeted by the US National Security Agency. The amount of the data gathered worldwide by the NSA is just one month (March 2013) was a staggering 97 billion pieces, according to Boundless Information documentation.
It’s unclear how much of that information might have come from the NSA’s partners in the Five Eyes network (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) but it is likely that data from Waihopai is included.
Waihopai was constructed to provide international telephone call data for the Five Eyes network – with the NSA presumably the main beneficiary. Waihopai’s two dishes draw down all the information from calls passing through two satellites – usually communications satellites geo-stationary over the Pacific equator.
Waihopai was built well before the “war on terror” for a traditional espionage purpose, to spy on the communications of Asia/Pacific governments. Today much of what the NSA extracts from the Waihopai data would relate to Chinese government communications.
China is not too happy with such surveillance of its communications. When Edward Snowden disclosed that the NSA had been hacking into Hong Kong computers there were complaints from Hong Kong parties, demonstrations in the streets, and negative commentary across the border in China.
Interestingly, one of the best articles I have read on the privacy issues flowing from the Snowden bombshell was written by China’s most vocal free speech advocate, Ai Weiwei. From his prison experiences he knows how surveillance information can be used to control people: “to tell you: we know exactly what you’re thinking or doing. It can drive people to madness…
“When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.”
Ai Weiwei concluded: “We must not hand over our rights to other people. No state power should be given that sort of trust. Not China. Not the US.”