The New Zealand Internet Party (not that is actually a political party yet) has released a draft policy for discussion and quite frankly, it’s not that inspiring, certainly not what you would expect from a progressive, technically savvy, young, bunch of entrepreneurs and smart thinkers.
It feels rushed and it feels emotional. It has the stamp of an angry Kim Dotcom lashing back at the current New Zealand government on the only issue he really struck gold on, spying. It feels more like a statement of position from Internet New Zealand, who have long carried this debate, and is similar to policy drafts the likes we are seeing from Labour and the Greens.
In the ICT policy stakes for this election year, it puts them third, by virtue of the fact that both Labour and the Greens have a good policy set developing, which include a lot of what the Internet Party want, and none of the other parties have put up any substantive policy in the technology space.
In short, the draft policy says:
- We should get out of the “Five Eyes” spying arrangement with the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
- The Bill of Rights is weak in our current technology focused world as is the Privacy Act.
- The Department of Internet Affairs has too much control over the New Zealand Firewall.
- The TICs Bill should be repealed because there is a “huge” cost to ICT providers.
- There should be more transparency.
- If you want to get in on the debate you can join the discussion forums here.
So let’s look at each of those in isolation.
The Five Eyes
We’ll be with them forever. The negative side of the debate says that we are spying on behalf of the other nations and we don’t actually know what information we are sending them. Further, they are spying on us. The positive aspect is that we are receiving information back from that group that is probably reducing the threat to New Zealand and giving us economic advantages (whether you agree with the morality on the latter, there is very strong evidence this is the case.)
Paul Buchanan, “is a former intelligence and defense policy analyst and consultant to US government security agencies who specializes in matters of security, comparative and international politics.” – Source I.e. someone who knows what he is talking about. Said last year that leaving the Five Eyes relationship would “make the nuclear issue look like kindergarten”.
Most analysts issues with the Five Eyes are not that they exist, and whether they should or not, but how they are monitored. In other words, how can we be sure that what these boys and girls are getting up to is legit? The Prime Minister says we should just trust him on this matter.
What does this issue matter for the common voter? Nothing I suspect. We give away our private data to large companies every single day. Facebook. Twitter. The list goes on.
You see, part of the problem with the Internet Party is that it’s a one trick pony, similar to the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. You have to really care about these issues and the Internet Party has to be the only one with the policies to get your vote. You probably should have a leader and MP’s as well…
Bill of Rights and Privacy Act
Both of these do need an overhaul, there will always be a lag between the law and technology because technology outstrips archaic, bureaucratic processes at near the speed of light. I think that Labour and the Greens have pipped the Internet Party at the post here. The reason being that both have indicated they want to create a Digital Bill of Rights. Something that most progressive countries are heading toward. So what’s the difference?
Here’s an example; ACC was slammed (as was EQC) for sending out files that contained sensitive information to outside parties. Was this a privacy breach? Yup. Was it a security breach? Nope. Was the system working as designed? Yup. The point being, privacy is not an ICT issue.
One of the things that could help the privacy cause is if each citizen had the ability to be able to request who had accessed their data, what part of it, and for what purpose. Now before you start screaming cost, this already exists in the health system, and other major agencies. We could make that process easier for Joe Citizen, using something similar to www.fyi.org.nz. Why does this work? Because agencies and companies, know that their customers and citizens can ask at any time to see who has been looking at their data will shore up their privacy practices.
No manner of Privacy Law will ever totally solve the issue.
Department of Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Firewall
I agree that the DIA should have a double-key method, that whomever is making the rules is being watched by someone who is separate politically and line management from them. I also suspect that it already exists.
Regardless, its a non-issue. You can go out and download free tools in about sixty seconds that will allow you to circumvent the firewall. The firewall is there to catch stupid people and to make regular people feel safe. This is not an issue that people will swing vote across too.
The TIC’s Bill should be repealed because there is a “huge” cost to the ICT Industry
Where’s the evidence. I certainly commented that this would likely be the case, some months ago now, but it doesn’t seem to have come about. I don’t think its an issue.
What is an issue is the TIC’s Bill slowing down ICT Infrastructure investment, because every time a provider of note wants to do something they have to engage the GCSB and they are not known for their speed, agility, flexibility, and balanced risk analysis. That’s the issue, not the cost.
There is a general call for more transparency
I think on balance, some will disagree, that the level of transparency in government over the past two decades has been increasing. This is less of an issue as is one of Open Data.
We have a mass of data in government that could be made legally free (and is thanks to the DIA we are ranked 4th in the wold in terms of Open Data) and we should speed that process up. It allows us to make quick advances in multiple areas like transport, health, smart city, and a range of areas for minimal investment.
This feels like a one-trick pony party and the trick is not going to be easy for the non-ICT literate to actually understand. It feels like it is playing on the fears of someone who has had a bad time with the GCSB and NSA, not someone who is interested in making a real change for New Zealanders. The policy to me feels tired already and if a little more thinking had gone into it then they probably could have leap-frogged the major parties with some initiatives. It’s not something that excites me.
Again, time will tell, but there isn’t a lot of time left and this party has some real issues. No leader, no MP, not a registered party, and the ongoing discussion with Mana.