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Calls for submissions on updates to NZ Search and Surveillance Act 2012

08 Nov 16

The Government wants to update the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, and it's looking for public feedback on the matter.

The Law Commission and the Ministry of Justice today released an Issues Paper, which details proposed improvement to the Act and whether its current powers are enough.

While the current Act is working well, the Commission believes that modern technology needs to be taken into account.

The Issues Paper also includes online surveillance, and the outdated approach is one of the things being called into question.

“For example, the growth in “cloud computing” means that a significant amount of digital information that may be required to prosecute offending is now stored via the internet on cloud-based apps. The Act makes it more difficult to search that data and the Issues Paper asks whether that approach is still justified," says Donna Buckingham, Law Commissioner.

Buckingham says there is also confusion about which types of surveillance can be used to gain warrants.

“Another issue we are aware of is that the Act requires a surveillance device warrant for only certain types of surveillance. It is not possible to get a warrant for other types of surveillance, such as computer programmes to track online activity. This creates considerable uncertainty about whether or not those other techniques can be used.”

Rajesh Chhana, Deputy Secretary Policy at the Ministry of Justice, adds that anyone with interests should make a submission and make themselves heard.

“This joint review, which is required under the Act, will help ensure the law strikes an appropriate balance between protecting people’s rights and enabling law enforcement agencies to effectively investigate and prosecute crime. It’s important that any recommendations for change take the public’s views into account. I encourage anyone with an interest in these issues to make a submission,” Chhana says.

In 2012, a number of search and surveillance powers were amalgamated into a single Act. The process included a Law Commission review, two Bills before Parliament and extended public debate.

“This Issues Paper provides an opportunity for all New Zealanders to have their say if they think either that the powers in the Act are not effective for law enforcement purposes or that they are not sufficient to protect the rights of individuals,” Buckingham says.

Submissions close on December 16, 2016. The submissions will help the Law Commission and Ministry of Justice come up with recommendations for the Act reform. The final report must be handed to the Minister of Justice by 28 June 2017.

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