Google 9 reasons Cyber Trawling by Spy Agencies for information is dangerous for people even those who have not done anything wrong | Truth Lies Deception and Coverups - Democracy Under Fire


9 reasons Cyber Trawling by Spy Agencies for information is dangerous for people even those who have not done anything wrong

9 reasons why Cyber Trawling by spy agencies 

for information, is dangerous for people -  

Even those who have not done anything wrong

"Cyber Trawling" in the context of this post, is the use of one or multiple methods to gather digital data on a group of people (or everyone) - the group being chosen without the use of reasonable, specific, focused criteria. In particular, there is no specific evidence that the members of the group that have been chosen to be trawled for information are either terrorists or criminals. Cyber Trawling implicitly involves invasion of personal privacy and undermines the right of New Zealanders (and others) to privacy.

You have probably heard the excuse from government that spying isn't harmful if you've done nothing wrong (ergo, there is nothing wrong with unfocused, broad sweep spying on every man, woman and child.)

"If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about." 


This is Police State think. 

It is very important that you understand why this notion is a lie.

You can be affected by unfocused, broad sweep cyber trawling for personal information by government, businesses or anyone else - in a number of ways - as a consequence of secrets being found related to:
  • You; and/or
  • Those you love; and/or
  • The groups you belong to; and/or
  • Those in positions of power whose actions may affect you; and/or
  • Those in positions of influence whose actions may affect you.
That's right. It's not just the direct spying on you that may have consequences on you - but spying on other people may have direct or indirect consequences on you - even if you have done nothing illegal.

Let's look at how unfocused, broad sweep "Cyber Trawling" for personal information about people, even if they have done nothing illegal - is wrong, and can have adverse consequences on innocent people:

1. Spying on people without just cause is an unreasonable invasion of privacy, and is illegal.

"But, not for much longer - if we can swing it," some legislators in NZ are effectively saying with regard to the GCSB and related legislation - that legalizes the invasion of privacy by government.

Privacy is an internationally recognized right. Even if we ignore international references to rights and just confine ourselves to New Zealand, New Zealanders currently have a right to privacy (albeit it is being deliberately eroded by those in government through changes in legislation).

New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990
  • Amongst the various rights detailed in the NZ Bill of Rights 1990 (the closest New Zealand has to a constitution) is section 21 - which clearly addresses the right to Privacy. It states:
21 Unreasonable search and seizure
"Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, whether of person, property, or correspondence or otherwise."
  • This, and the other rights outlined in the NZ Bill of Rights reflect democratic rights and civil liberties characteristic of democratic nations. Protections of privacy under the Bill of Rights is likely why the recent Acts and Bills have been introduced - to legally circumvent those rights
  • Have the members of parliament, who are elected representatives of the public, decided to sign away a right embedded in what is effectively New Zealand's equivalent of a constitution? Because if they have decided this, other rights in the Bill of Rights are as likely to disappear too.
Privacy Act 1993

New Zealand also has a Privacy Act. This is another piece of legislation that is seriously in need of a major revamp. However, it was decided by government that the promised update to the Privacy Act would be deferred - until after the recent Acts and Bills that undermine the privacy of New Zealanders were dealt with. Interesting timing ...

The Privacy Act has a preface actually stating that it is designed with the recommendations (and implicit in that, the goals) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - ie it is geared towards allowing business and government to access personal information internationally; as much, if not more than to protect the privacy of New Zealanders.

Although the Privacy Act has "Privacy Principles" outlined in it, the powers that be have written the Act (and other legislation) in such a way that government agencies can get around these principles with relative ease. Consequently, the Privacy Act as it is currently written, is a tool more geared to protect the interests of business and government than protecting the privacy of the public. Nevertheless, despite its weaknesses, the Privacy Act 1993 clearly also indicates that New Zealander's have a right to privacy.

There is other New Zealand legislation that addresses privacy - but these are the 2 biggies.

The point of starting with the legal right to privacy is this:
  • Currently New Zealanders have a legal right to protection from "peeping" into their private affairs in the absence of a reasonable cause (and a related warrant) to suspect terrorist or criminal activity.
  • Under the GCSB Spy Bill (especially in the context of other recently passed legislation that passed while a lot of us were asleep at the switch) which will legalize trawler style spying - this right will be gone for us and future generations. While this may not matter to you - it may matter to your son or daughter.
2. With unfocussed cyber trawling type spying, the scope (objectives) for collecting the information are very broad.

The GCSB Bill is written in such a way that trawling for personal information can be rationalized for use for just about anything government, or a government minister or other persons in positions of power might deem useful - whether it is personal, financial, political or other types of information - from any source.

The Bill definitely does not limit collection of data to be specifically limited to terrorism or criminal behavior.  

In the proposed amendment, the objective of the Bureau, in performing its functions, has been described as - to contribute to:
  1. the national security of New Zealand; and
  2. the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
  3. the economic well-being of New Zealand.
Basically, anything goes that can be interpreted in any way to fit into these very broad categories.
For more discussion on this:

Obviously if there is reasonable evidence to suspect that an individual or group is a terrorist, the government should have broader rights of surveillance. But there needs to be reasonable evidence. The Machiavellian rationale that "anything" or "anyone" might possibly be a terrorist or serious criminal, therefore that's a good enough excuse to "go fishing" and invade everyone's privacy is wrong. 

If one used the rationale that "anyone" could be a criminal or terrorist, what's to stop home "inspections" by authorities for no particular reason, other than that they might find something? That is Police State thinking that was the hallmark of the repressive and oppressive regimes of Nazi Germany, East Germany (post WWII and before the fall of the Berlin Wall), Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain etc.

Do you think New Zealanders want to live in a Police State? 
Do you want to live in a Police State?

3. When the government is legally allowed to indiscriminately collect all kinds of digital data, the nature of the data collected taken out of context can be misleading.

While you might not have done anything wrong - do you really want the government (or private "intelligence" companies the government, or some overseas government might contract with) sifting through your emails for example? 

Your emails may contain perfectly innocent communications such as rude jokes you have received and passed on; or, personal opinions about your bosses or place of work etc. 

While not illegal, this information, particularly if taken out of context, may seem odd, embarrassing, or inappropriate - and might cause significant problems for you if the information was made known to a particular individual, your employer, some other group, or the public - even if what you said or did was not illegal.

4. People who hold information that may be detrimental to another - effectively have power over that person - and can blackmail the victim for money or favors. 

Unscrupulous individuals (including government employees, intelligence agencies, politicians or anyone else who gets their hands on information that people want to keep secret) can use that information against them. 

The potential for blackmail for money or favors exists whether the secret relates to illegal or legal (but potentially embarrassing, and likely to cause fall-out) activity. It may affect you either directly if you are the one being manipulated, or indirectly if the person who is being manipulated (even someone you don't even know, but is in a position of influence or power) winds up doing something that will have consequences for you.

The victim whose secret is threatened to be exposed can be straight out black-mailed for money. 

In addition, arguably, potentially even more serious than blackmail for money - are situations where the threat of disclosure is used to blackmail people to do the blackmailer a "favor" that is to their advantage. The favor may be to do something or not do something, to obtain something or hide something etc. Typically this starts with one favor, but the pressure increases because the fact that the victim did the favor becomes another secret that they must hide which can be used against them. This method is used by intelligence agencies and criminals. There is nothing to stop any of the many people likely to have access to your data that has been captured during surveillance trawling and distributed hither and yon to act opportunistically in a similar manner. 

The link to the post by David Brin, PhD is worth reading by all politicians and public servants (and may be particularly relevant for anyone who might be being blackmailed over the GCSB Bill). It is particularly worth reading by the public. He discusses the US situation, but his points are applicable in any country. If you are in a situation similar to that described by Brin, you should consider taking his advice. You are likely to be better off disclosing the truth - than trying to hide secrets that will have you living in fear under someone else's thumb indefinitely.
The Hidden Danger to Pubic Servants: BLACKMAIL

Ultimately the blackmailed person is like a puppet whose strings are pulled at will by the person who knows their secrets.

The non-financial form of blackmail is commonly used by "intelligence" agencies and is also used in the political arena to put pressure on individuals to provide information or access to information; or to vote or act in a certain manner that is in the black-mailer's interests. It is also used in corporate espionage and can result in the victim, who may have been quite innocent to start with, becoming embroiled in inappropriate and/or illegal activities.

While you might not have done anything of the nature to warrant blackmail (or don't have power that can be used to a black-mailer's benefit) - think of the implications when elected representatives can be black-mailed as a consequence of something they have done, or someone that they love has done, or some organization or business they used to belong to has done? This means that their activities and their vote is no longer likely to be focused on working for the people who elected them - but doing whatever they have to - to keep the people who know their secrets from revealing them. 

Think about the consequences when people in positions of influence and power who work for the government or the financial industry or other organizations in the public trust - become puppets on a string because some one knows and controls them because of their secrets. 

An example of what happens when people hold secrets over others forcing "favors" is the Libor Rate Fixing Scandal that came to light in 2012. The rates were fixed on trillions of dollars of loans since 2005. Think about the secrets and people who must have been involved to allow that to continue undetected (or at least unknown to the public) for so long. The Libor set the interest rate for New Zealand's floating interest home loans (bringing a whole new slant on "fixed rate" mortgages) as well as the rate of New Zealand's corporate borrowing. 

There were very likely people who became involved unwillingly in the scam (which went back to 2005), or who knew about it but were afraid to speak out because one or more of the main villains had some information that they held over them. 

Interestingly, despite the mammoth spying apparatus, neither Libor or the recent disclosures about the trillions of dollars in money stashed in off-shore accounts by tax dodgers were disclosed by government - which speaks against the effectiveness of unfocused trawling for information (unless this information was found and was hidden for some reason.) Libor and the tax dodgers were disclosed to the public by whistle-blowers.

You do not have to be the person who is being blackmailed - yet be affected by the actions of those who are.

5. Governments cannot be relied upon to keep the data they hold confidential.

We certainly have had plenty of evidence of this in New Zealand. The media reported over 100,000 emails containing personal information being sent (by accident) to wrong email addresses by employees in various government departments over the past 18 months. That is all that we know of - and this is likely to be only a tiny tip of a gigantic iceberg.

Human error is a reality. 

But human error isn't the only risk to confidentiality. 

Data obtained through cyber trawling can be accessed by multiple agencies in New Zealand, as well as by non-government agencies and contractors the government decides to engage to do this work. But, in reality, New Zealand spies mainly for the benefit of it's partners, particularly the US.  

Under the changes in the GCSB Bill, the GCSB will legally be able to do what it likely has been doing illegally for a long time - namely passing along information from cyber trawling related to New Zealand citizens to governments, agencies and contractors of OTHER countries. Our personal data will be passed around within New Zealand and outside of it - to people and places we know nothing about, without our knowledge and consent - as casually as passing along after dinner mints.

In the U.S. (it's unknown if it happens in New Zealand), 70% of "intelligence" work is out-sourced to private companies who also SELL packages of their intelligence to other companies. Booz Allen Hamilton, alone (the company Edward Snowden worked for) has 24,500 employees. There is no telling where information that has been trawled will go - regardless of promises by politicians.

Cyber trawling is dangerous to you - even if you have done nothing wrong because the information collected without your knowledge or informed consent can go anywhere in the world and be accessed by unknown numbers of people - which adds further risks to breeches of your privacy.

4. Erroneous conclusions based on faulty analysis of data and addition of names to "Watch" lists

It's not just that your information can go on a world tour without your knowledge. This data is "mined" (as shown in the leaks by Edward Snowden). This is logical - otherwise there would be no point in collecting the information.

You may be perfectly innocent of anything. But, if your name comes up in the unlucky "Spy Dip" as a consequence of data-mining - your name can go on one of the multiple lists of millions of suspicious people that the U.S. (or other countries) have in their special data systems.

You likely won't know about your special undeserved status, unless you travel - in which case you may be subject to more frequent and thorough inspections. Your data is also more likely to be more closely scrutinized.

5. The government is effectively not limited in what it can do with the information. 

When information is collected without consent, and without specific limits - how is "reasonable use for the purpose intended" to be determined? 

Well let's get realistic. It's going to be interpreted by government as whatever the government thinks is reasonable - and the purpose intended will be whatever strikes the fancy of the agency that goes fishing. 

There are a lot of people of a Machiavellian mindset who work for government - who operate on the grounds that the end justifies any means. Quite a number have bonus packages that may be based upon what they do with their "catch". 

You may have done nothing wrong, but someone in a government department may need or want to crank their stats up - and they may just fish your name out of the data that has been trawled ostensibly for some other purpose. In the U.S. there has been quite a scandal over alleged government policies resulting in agencies victimizing certain individuals or groups. When the dragnet can be searched for characteristics that the incumbent government or people in power do not like - there is considerable scope for unjust acts.

6. Financial information obtained by stealth regarding: individuals, or businesses, or even countries can be used dishonestly

This can include the direct or indirect theft or manipulation of: money, property, investment information, contract information or trade information etc. 

Once again, unscrupulous individuals (including government employees, intelligence agencies, government contractors, politicians or anyone else who gets their hands on personal information) who have access to financial information can abuse this. 

It's not just potential fraudulent use of credit card information etc. Trawled data can include information that may be used to the spyer's advantage (eg investments in the stock market owing to the ultimate in insider knowledge); or knowledge of plans for contracts that are in the works may be sold to someone with an interest. 

7. Identity theft 

Owing to the fact that this data is collected and is likely to be widely circulated, there is a greater risk of identity theft. 

Identity theft is a problem because another person may make financial charges in your name that could have serious consequences financially, or may act in an inappropriate or illegal manner in your name causing you heaps of trouble.

8. Damage to data

"Peepers" can accidentally or deliberately delete or modify information related to individuals that can have substantial repercussions for the person whose data has been changed. 

The larger the pool of people, the more likely it is that there will be people of similar names - which increases the likelihood of actions being done related to the data of the wrong person accidentally.

9. The cost of trawling for information.

The US spent $11 billion dollars last year - just on activities related to classifying and storing information. It is reported that 84% (ie $840 billion dollars) of the total US tax income of $1.1 trillion dollars annual income is budgeted for defense, surveillance and foreign aid spending.

The cost of trawling for information in New Zealand is unknown, but it must be a huge tax burden, relative to the country's tax income. 

New Zealand has at least two spy satellite facilities that require upkeep; not to mention all of the other equipment, supplies and services; salaries of employees and payments to contractors etc required to fuel the multiple agencies this small country has - that spy on its citizens. Some of this (related to detecting criminals and major fraud and terrorists) is warranted. 

But it is in Police States, not democratic countries where the whole population is subject to widespread surveillance - based on the excuse that anyone might be up to something. Such activity is in fact geared to incite fear in the population and repress dissent and opposition to oppressive and wrongful government acts. New Zealand citizens should not be paying for government agencies to fulfill Police State functions.

We are not denying that "intelligence" activities should be part of police and military activities. But this should be within reason.

It is possible to obtain a great deal of intelligence from information that people have intentionally made public on the internet. It is the actual "Cyber Trawling" and acts to surreptitiously obtain information that people have not deliberately made public that is at issue. 

In the interest of maintaining the right of New Zealanders to privacy and security of their personal information, we are against "Cyber trawling" type activities being done in the absence of reasonably strong indications that would stand up if challenged in court along with a warrant.

There are many other problems with the GCSB Act besides this. We do not think that that Act should be passed - even with the proposed amendments (which the public has not been able to comment on.

In closing, it goes without saying that individuals do not want others prying into their personal information and activities. 

This is not just because this results in loss of privacy. 

It is because of what others can do with unfocused, trawled information that is accessed by stealth - even though the individual being spied upon has done nothing wrong.

If you want to leave a comment you are welcome to do so.
Click on "Post a Comment" below the very bottom of the Post
and a comment box will appear.


If you are interested in reading more 

on surveillance and privacy,
you might also be interested in...

Would you vote for, or respect any politician - 
who votes in favor of the GCSB Spy Bill?

The GCSB Bill is an attack on New Zealanders human rights in order to bring us closer to becoming a colony or vassal of the USA

GCSB Spy Bill Amendments A case of Jam on Moldy Bread 

The New Zealand GCSB Spy Bill - 12 steps closer to Big Brother surveillance

Submission example for the NZ Spy Bill

Eye Spy - Echelon, Big Brother and New Zealand - in the Global Spying Network

Peeping Toms - Seventy years of government led domestic surveillance and repression through Spy Agencies

States of Surveillance: New - Mandatory blood testing of all Americans age 15-65 

States of Paranoia - Evolution of a Police State and Constitution Free Zones
Coffee Q4 - Who are the good guys vs the bad guys?
Julian Assange, Robin Hood of the Information Age - and Pandora's Box

Leaks, Peaks and Lost Letters

Privacy, Secrecy and Coverups

Secret Squirrels and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner

Lies disguised as truth P3

Some politicians and bureaucrats think the general public are dumb. They want to keep us that way by controlling what information we are given. 

The information we are provided may be "truthiness" (which is not the truth, and involves all manner of deception), not truth. Lies and deception are often used to put a positive spin on matters  we would not agree to, or would disgust us if we knew the truth. Secrecy is another tool of "impression management" to cover up wrong-doing, or shameful or corrupt acts.

Freedom of information is a cornerstone of democracy and justice. Without it, the risk of a decline into an authoritarian form of government is virtually inevitable.

Are we "sheep-les" or mere puppets who can be led to believe and do whatever our masters say; or are we thinking people who want to be truthfully informed? 

Are we willing to speak up and insist on the truth? Are we prepared to take action to guard our democratic rights and our rights to justice and fair treatment?


Thinking Tiger D10

The people generally trust their government, law-makers and the publicly funded bureaucrats who are responsible for representing their interests. But the "people" are being deceived in many instances. We feel this is wrong.  The "people" - ordinary folk like you and me have great power in democratic countries. We can and should do something about this.

Lies, deception, cover-ups and corrupt practices must be "out"-ed if they are to end. This is necessary for democracy and justice to survive.

Tiger sleeping D10

The "people" are like a sleeping tiger.

Tiger jumping D10

If you pull the tail of the tiger; it is to be expected that the tiger will wake up, take notice of it's tormenters and give chase.

In the interests of democracy, justice, world peace and a stable economy for ordinary people - the tiger must run wrong-doers to the ground.

Tiger running wrong do-ers to ground D10
Separator D10b
Original 3 Monkeys D10
Original 3 Monkeys

All that is required for evil to take hold and grow is to: close your eyes, block your ears, shut your mouth - and do nothing.

If we do nothing - then nothing will improve.

Monkeys Spreading the Word D10
Spread the word!

One person can achieve little or nothing. 
Many can move mountains.

3 Freedom Monkeys D10
3 Freedom of Information Monkeys

Thank you from
3 Monkeys & me

No comments: