Private spying by Government departments 'concerning' - Privacy Foundation

  • 20/06/2018

Privacy Foundation New Zealand says possible bias between the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and a private firm, is shocking. An investigation has been launched into the relationship between the SIS and Thompson and Clark.

The Government has broadened its inquiry into private spying by Government departments after receiving the concerning new information from the Director General of the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) Rebecca Kitteridge.

She said a trove of emails released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday "raise questions in relation to conduct and possible bias in favour of Thompson and Clark" and those questions are now the subject of an internal investigation.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has widened the Government's investigation it to cover all departments after serious questions were raised over the use of, or contact with, Thompson and Clark by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Gehan Gunasekara, deputy chair of Privacy Foundation New Zealand, which advocates for protecting the privacy rights of New Zealanders, says the situation is worrying.

"There is a power imbalance between the subjects who are being surveilled and the Big Brother Government," he said, referring to the television reality game show where contestants are continuously monitored by live cameras.

There are fears New Zealand's clean transparent image will be tarnished as the Government dealings with private security firm Thompson and Clark, become more apparent. Mr Gunasekara says the issues could be more widespread.

"It's encouraging that somebody has got to the bottom of it, but it's also concerning that it took an OIA [Official Information Act] request to bring some of these things to light," he said.

State Services Minister, Chris Hipkins, says it's clear there has been questionable behaviour between a private security firm and Government agencies.

"I think New Zealanders should be able to expect the highest levels of integrity and ethical behaviour from their public services," he said.

"Clearly there has been some questionable behaviour in Thompson and Clark's relationship with the wider public service."