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;
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;
- Ministerial mis-use of citizen’s private data for political purposes
- And again, by the same Minister
- Illegal spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau
- A Prime Minister who readily admits to regular contact with a sleazy, far-right blogger
- Said sleazy right-wing blogger has no hesitation in using private information to denigrate individuals
- Said sleazy right-wing blogger has close contact with other National ministers
- Leaks to right wing bloggers that serve ministerial agendas
- Several pieces of legislation passed, increasing State surveillance powers
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.
‘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;
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.”
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.“
“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. ..
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;
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.
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
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
Fairfax media: Spying bill passes into law
Dominion Post: Spy bungles start to entangle PM
NZ Herald: GCSB spying illegal, but no charges laid
The Standard: Tape of ACC-Pullar meeting raises more questions
The Jackal: Judith Collins defamation fail
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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