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August 5, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Why the GCSB is Not a GC

According to the Chinese calendar 2013 is the year of the snake, but in the political calendar it is the year of the spy. Our news this year has been dominated by Kim Dotcom, the GCSB, PRISM, the NSA and Edward Snowden. Just in the last week we have seen dramatic developments that a New Zealand journalist in Afghanistan was spied on by the Defence Force, and that a political reporter had personal phone records and swipe card details released.

Despite these various spy dramas unfolding day by day, I am as guilty as your average New Zealander about being a bit apathetic. I’m no multi-millionaire German internet tycoon, so I when we found out there was a wee bit of phone tapping of Kim Dotcom, I didn’t really mind. When I found out the GCSB had actually spied on 88 Kiwis, I thought that the chances I was one of them was pretty slim. When I heard that the GCSB laws would be changed so New Zealanders could be spied on, I didn’t really mind. I had joined the apathetic masses.

Then came the protests. People took to the streets and I took a step back and assessed just what was going on. I realised that slowly and insidiously, the role of spying and surveillance in our country had grown and from the apathetic, unsurveilled sidelines.

Why should you care? Not only will the GCSB and surveillance law changes allow data about who, when and from where you email, call, text message or (heaven forbid) snapchat people to be collected, but it will seriously alter the course of our country as a place where we value a free press. You might not give a damn about so called “metadata” being collated on a huge scale, you might think you have “nothing to hide and nothing to fear”, but the same data can reveal the sources journalists are contacting, something which seriously jeopardises their freedom and ability to report on and check the power of the Government. We might not notice it, and journalists might not either, but a country where whistleblowers know that details about all of their communications are constantly being collected will be a country where stories that we should know about and should be exposed will be kept in the dark.

Not only will your communications be spied on, but the communications of those who protect our transparency and ensure we have a fair and free country will be spied on too. These law changes should not pass, and we should give a damn. After all, they may take away our assets, but they will never take our multiple-chinned selfies.

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