GUEST BLOG: Denis Tegg – GCSB & mass surveillance of NZers – definition of “private communication” the key


Whether spying on NZ’ers is lawful is in the news again.

The key to this is the definition of “private communication” in the new Act. Please refer to my oped in the NZ Herald.

in which I spell out how changed public attitudes to expectations of privacy have opened a loophole which now facilitates lawful unwarranted spying on kiwis. I have attached the file which contains all the links and references missing from the Herald article.

For the first time yesterday PM Key conceded that that there are “minor circumstances” under which the GCSB can spy on NZers – (1.50 into this Youtube of his press conference)

John Key was clearly referring to the section 4 definition of “private communication”. The GCSB’s “Nationality Policy” clearly states at clause 16 that communications of NZers can be deemed NOT private under the Act

— 16 (U) A communication is not private if it is made in circumstances in which any person should reasonably expect that the communication might be intercepted by a third party who doesn’t have consent to do so.”

Once a communication is deemed NOT private then all of the protections are stripped away and the GCSB could intercept NZer’s communications itself or access them thru Xkeystore.

So, I emphasize – the key to the issue of the GCSB spying on NZers is how they are interpreting the phrase “private communication”. The PM must release the legal manuals and opinions. He certainly needs to front on just what these “minor circumstances” are. But will any journo have the courage?


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Denis Tegg is a Thames lawyer with an interest in state surveillance and the erosion of civil liberties



  1. In regard to -16(U)- who decides what ‘reasonably expects’ means? Do all those free wifi stands/cafes, libraries etc gather information while providing free acess? This is unbelievable.

    • Yes it is happening overseas, by mass public WiFi mopping up of all transmissions.

      So Key used our tax dollars to get Telecoms to set up the spying of us in mass.

      Key is evil. Not unlike Pre war Germany with their NAZI party snoopers who sat in beer halls and listened for dissenters to pot to Goebbels & Goering to deal with.

  2. Think your very on to it.

    It is a shame future generations of our children will bear the brunt of this generations , tardiness , self interest and irresponsibilty to even bother to peruse the most simplistic of concepts and small print.

    The slack lazy Kiwi.

    And for any of them that like to quote the same old tired phrase ”if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”……

    Then be my guest and post all electronic details online about yourself, your most intimate sexual details , your financial staus and banking , your family problems , what you really think about your boss , how you think your baby is better looking than your sisters one , your drug and alcohol habits , your traffic offences , your old criminal convictions – post it all !!!

    Put your money where your mouth is and have the courage of your convictions and loose your inhibitions !!!…

    Have a ball !!! …knock yourself out with it !!! go viral with all your dirty laundery for all the world to see !!!

    Then come slinking back to this website and tell us that privacy issues DO MATTER AFTER ALL !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And stop being such a disgusting brain dead , naive dipshit.

    • “And stop being such a disgusting brain dead , naive dipshit” – Yayyy – I agree .., and take Wild Katipo’s point further.

      We all withhold, or release information about ourselves depending on the social circumstances at the time … I talk to my doctor differently than my work colleagues and my partner differently than say my bank manager. It’s not that I have anything to hide or that one or other parties are being lied to.

      Overall my persona in the community is manipulated by myself and changes depending on the social setting I am in – a more simplistic example is the clothes I wear and when I wear them.

      But this “hoovering up” by the NSA of nearly everything that I do on a daily basis, strips away my persona and again in simple terms leaves my standing naked in the town square. Much of what the NSA has on me already, I will have forgotten or will have my own personal version of.

      Once our GCSB deems me to be a “Person Of Interest” I am laid bare. They will know more about me than I do!

      Clearly the term “hoovering up” has been derived from Edgar J Hoover and his attempts at the same thing.

      Coran Dan missed the point on Q & A when he questioned Dr Rodgers re the storage facilities necessary to “record” the internet and that NZ had no such capability – we don’t need one … it’s all sent to the NSA in places like Blufdale

      US$1.7bn buys one helluva lot of disk storage!

  3. This post’s author may well be correct that the issue of legality of mass surveillance on New Zealanders hinges on the definition of “private communication”. Obviously in an age when people are aware that their communications may be intercepted by the GCSB then they wouldn’t have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy, so therefore, private communications aren’t private.

    Personally I believe that the legality of the mass surveillance of New Zealanders being carried out by the GCSB is a smoke screen. I don’t give a flying monkey’s nuts about whether it’s legal or not, there have been plenty of truly abhorrent historical atrocities that have been legal. The real issue here is whether such actions are ethical. To surveill and remove the right to privacy of New Zealand citizens in the (dubious) belief that this will increase their security is unethical in the extreme.

    Forget whether it’s legal, ask whether it’s right!

  4. Key has a lot to answer for. If this is politics now, what’s it going to be once this TPPA is signed? Look around ourselves, look at what Key has got away with. How much more are we going to take? How much longer are we going to wait before it’s too late to do what’s gotta be done.
    Key won’t reveal the truth, he’ll just feed a tidbit more of any red herring he can come up with, or be advised to say. Key is waiting to sign the TPPA, then get out and leave this country and its people at the merciless desires of the next corporate-operated government sitting in the background.
    Key has made laws to cover his arse so he doesn’t have to justify himself to anyone.

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