'Cloud' technologies prompt Search & Surveillance Act review

Review will consider how other countries have tackled issues when crime investigations lead to 'the cloud'.

Review will consider how other countries have tackled issues when crime investigations lead to 'the cloud'.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says she is concerned by a review that may extend Police's search and surveillance powers in "the cloud". 

Police may be given new powers to search for information that crime suspects share through social media or store on cloud-based computer services.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the growth of "smart devices", apps, social media and cloud-based services had posed "challenges" for Police and other agencies investigating and prosecuting crime.

The Search and Surveillance Act would be reviewed to see whether any changes were needed, she said.

"When considering these issues, it's important to take into account the potential implications for people's privacy, as well as other rights the Act recognises," she said.

READ MORE: Customs will lose automatic right to examine electronic devices at border

"The review will also look at any issues courts may have highlighted and how other countries are resolving legal questions about search and surveillance powers."

Turei said there was no evidence that justified broadening existing search and surveillance powers, and the Act was "already notorious for eroding civil liberties and giving sweeping powers to more government agencies than ever before".

The review would consider the Police's ability to use the capabilities of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau, which she also found concerning, she said.

"Security agencies need to prove to New Zealanders that they can be trusted, not the other way round," she said.

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A statement from Adams did not provide further information on what challenges Police were facing, or what legal changes might be considered.

"We can't anticipate the outcomes of the Search and Surveillance review so don't know what new search powers they might look at, or privacy considerations," a spokesman for Adams said.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said the review was timely and he expected to participate but indicated he had little information on what it might involve. 

The Law Commission and Ministry of Justice will seek public submissions later in the year and report back in June next year.

In May, the Government proposed removing Customs' automatic right to examine people's smartphones and other electronic devices at the border.

A Cabinet minute suggested new legislation would only allow Customs officials to examine devices if they had "reasonable suspicions" they might contain evidence of criminal offending or other relevant evidence. 

But in a compromise, Customs officials are set to get a new power to demand passwords and encryption keys to devices and services once that statutory threshold for suspicion has been passed.

SEARCHING QUESTIONS

What the review will look at:

- Developments in technology and their broader implications.

- Any significant case law on, or relevant to the review of, the Act since its enactment.

- International legislative developments relating to search and surveillance since the Act's enactment.

 - Stuff

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