Online Voting – no longer a viable option post-2013

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There has been public debate recently on the prospect of employing online voting for local body and general elections. The suggestion is made to counter falling voting numbers, as the 2011 general election recorded the lowest voter turn-out (74.21%) since 1887.

But a recent ‘tweet’ by civil liberties advocate; professional techer; and co-founder of the blog, Tech Liberty, made this pertinent point about the wisdom of online voting;

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

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Thomas Beagle - GCSB - online voting - privacy - Twitter - tweet

 

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Thomas Beagle has raised an important point.

The safety and inviolability of privacy in our voting system is integral to democracy. If there were to be even a hint or whiff that this privacy had been violated – the damage it would cause our fragile democratic system might not be repairable for generations.

We have already had assault after assault on our freedoms and privacy – especially since 2008. A few examples in a Roll of Dishonour include;

For a party that advocates getting the State our of lives, National has been working over-time to snoop, pry, mis-use private information; leak information for political advantage; and to increase the surveillance powers of government agencies.

As Keith Holyoake, a former National Prime Minister said in 1959;

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National we will give you honest government

‘The National Party believes in a property-owning democracy. … We believe in the maximum degree of personal freedom and the maximum degree of individual choice for our people. We believe in the least interference necessary with individual rights, and the least possible degree of state interference.’

One suspects that the spirit of Holyoake would be in utter despair at what his party has become since he uttered those words.

Since National has been in office, we have had legislation enacted that has vastly increased State surveillance powers in a way few thought possible in our once fiercely privacy-protective society;

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

On 1 October 2012, a new law came into effect,

“The Search and Surveillance Act, which was passed through Parliament in March, extends production and examination orders to the police and legalises some forms of surveillance.

It will let more government agencies carry out surveillance operations, allows judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, and changes the right to silence.”

Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

On 21 August 2013,

“… John Key introduced the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which would extend the powers of the GCSB to enable it to collect information from all New Zealanders for the use of other government departments including the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.Under the bill, the GCSB will have three main functions. Firstly, it will continue to collect foreign intelligence but it will not be allowed to spy on New Zealanders. Secondly, it will give the GCSB a legal mandate to assist the police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service. Thirdly, it will extend the GCSB’s cyber-security functions to encompass protecting private-sector cyber systems.

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

“The technical Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Bill will compel telecommunication firms to assist intelligence agencies in intercepting and decrypting phone calls, texts and emails. ..

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The bill has two parts – interception and network security. It replaces other legislation and is a partner to the Government Communications Security Bureau bill, passed earlier this year.

It compels telecommunications firms and online service providers to give “surveillance agencies” (the police, Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) and the GCSB) access to their clients’ communications.”

The rise of State power and increasing surveillance is simply unprecedented in our history.

We now have at least four state agencies that can pry into our lives; the Customs, Police, SIS, and GCSB.  Add WINZ, the IRD, Immigration, et al to the list, and it becomes apparent that this country has become a Westernised, consumer-driven, version of the former East Germany.

We even have our own Stasi-like para-military that raids villages out in the back-blocks, away from prying eyes of the public and media;

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Armed par-military police, during the 2007 Urewera raid.
Armed par-military police, during the 2007 Urewera raid.

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In five years we have become a quasi-police state.

In April 2013, the Kitteridge Report revealed that up to eightyeight New Zealanders had been illegally spied on by the GCSB.

A month later, in May 2013, not only was no one held to account and not  prosecuted;

“…it could not be established that any GCSB staff had the necessary criminal intent to illegally intercept private communications in this case, and GCSB staff cannot be criminally liable”.

– but a subsequent whitewash determined;

“The Inspector-General formed a view that there have been no breaches, although the law is unclear and the Inspector-General recommends amending it,” GCSB Director Ian Fletcher said in a statement.

Fletcher, Key, and other apologist for the GCSB’s law-breaking werelying. The law was not “unclear”. In fact, it was crystal clear that the Bureau could not spy on NZ citizens and permanent residents;

14  Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

The Dominion Post’s Tracy Watkins got it right  when she wrote;

“The GCSB’s interpretation of the law was so loose it managed to spy on 88 New Zealanders even though the law specifically stated it was not allowed to do so.”

Amidst the increased surveillance by the various State agencies; the illegal mis-use of information; ministerial leaks to sociopathic bloggers like Cameron Slater; and previous illegal spying by the GCSB – the prospect of on-line voting is no longer feasible.

It is simply not safe to entrust the sanctity of the privacy of voting to an internet that is now more like an open postcard to the Police, SIS, GCSB, and god-knows-who-else.

We would have absolutely no way of knowing who was accessing our voting.

And if a State agency was caught illegally accessing New Zealanders’ voting records? The Prime Minister would simply dismiss any such illegality with this kind of sophistry;

“In addition, the Act governing the [online voting process] is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.

It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

So why should we trust a man who has condoned previous acts of illegal state spying on individuals?

He’s done it before.

 

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References

Election Results: Party Votes and Turnout by Electorate

NZ History: Elizabeth Yates

Blog: Tech Liberty

Twitter: Thomas Beagle

Fairfax media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying

TV3: Bennett accused of breaching privacy again

NZ Herald: GCSB report: 88 cases of possible illegal spying uncovered

Radio NZ: Key confessions over Whale Oil

Whaleoil: Know your Wharfies – Cecil Walker

Metro: Her Majesty

NZ Herald: Probe into email leak welcome, says Collins

Te Ara – Encyclopedia of NZ: National Party – Page 4 – Party principles

Legislation: Search and Surveillance Act 2012

NZ Herald: New police search and surveillance law in force

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Wikipedia: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Legislation: Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Fairfax media: Spying bill passes into law

TVNZ News: Spy agency could have illegally spied on dozens of Kiwis

Zdnet: NZ spy agency staff cleared in illegal spying probe

TVNZ News: GCSB cleared of illegal spying, though law ‘unclear’

Legislation: Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 – Para 14

Dominion Post:  Spy bungles start to entangle PM

Additional

NZ Herald: GCSB spying illegal, but no charges laid

Other blogs

The Standard: Tape of ACC-Pullar meeting raises more questions

The Jackal: Judith Collins defamation fail

Tech Liberty: Submission – Telecommunications (Interception Capability & Security) Bill


 

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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8 COMMENTS

  1. All too true Frank. Just to add that I think postal voting is also just about as bad and just as easy to manipulate and yet it is the most common way of holding local body elections in this country. I believe that United Kingdom is considering postal voting for general elections, if they haven’t already done it! Less than two centuries ago, people died for the right to have a secret ballot and now that is put at risk. It is not worth it.

  2. Timely post given the creeping surveillance state New Zealand now is.

    Even primitive attempts at automated voting per “Votomatic” machines in the USA in 2000 came back to bite with the election of Dubya.

    The hole punching devices meant to indicate a voters intention often left imperfect impressions resulting in “hanging, dimpled or swinging ‘chads’”. A chad being the fragments left when holes are punched in paper.

    Anyway the upshot being tabulation machines did not count these votes. This did not necessarily favour Bush but it did complicate things after an automatic recount was triggered due to the closeness of the vote in Florida. A later Supreme Court decision canned the various recounts handing the presidency to Bush.

    Apologies for the long intro, but how many digital hanging chad scenarios exist? The recent https://www.resetthenet.org shows how concerned people are.

    Keep voting human based and manual for now until there is some degree of verifiable control over governments and corporations.

    • Even primitive attempts at automated voting per “Votomatic” machines in the USA in 2000 came back to bite with the election of Dubya.

      Yeah and that would be one of the reasons why we go for online voting rather than voting machines made by corporations.

  3. All good points, but I don’t see this as being any reason for not introducing online voting. In fact, considering that the rest of our lives are lived online and that information is already accessible, we may as well add voting to that.
    If the government spent 1 hour searching my online history and internet footprint they could find out way more than my voting history.

  4. Absolutely NO to online voting. What we do need to do is have it mid week and give people a half day off to vote. Hold it over a 24 hour period. It should be a social event to encourage people to go down the road or wherever to vote.

  5. It is simply not safe to entrust the sanctity of the privacy of voting to an internet that is now more like an open postcard to the Police, SIS, GCSB, and god-knows-who-else.
    We would have absolutely no way of knowing who was accessing our voting.

    Except that it isn’t and that we would. Encrypted connection between the server and the client make it damn near impossible to read what’s being sent. And make it so that you’re informed every time someone does access your information and you’re told the where and who.

    The spy agencies are interested in you meta-data because that will tell them what you’re doing. That requires laws, procedures and software that prevent anybody from acquiring that information.

    No, I’m not naive no matter how much people think I am. I’m quite aware of the risks but think that they can be managed the same way the the risks inherent in our present system are managed. John Banks got caught and so did that Labour dude a couple of years back that tried to rort the system but both instances show just how insecure our present system actually is – especially if the RWNJs coming out and saying that what John Banks did was normal practice for decades.

    As much as people seem to think that everything done electronically is invisible it’s not. Doing anything electronically always leaves tracks and those tracks can be found.

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