Law change can protect Kiwis from private spies

Changes to a law already before Parliament could protect New Zealanders from spying by private companies, the Green Party said today.

“It’s silly that private investigators have more rights to use tracking devices than the Police,” said Green human rights spokesperson Keith Locke, “but we can extend the law to control companies and individuals as well as Government agencies.”

A clause could be added to the Search and Surveillance Bill that is currently in front of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, said Mr Locke who sits on the committee for the consideration of the Surveillance Bill.

His comments came after a Sunday newspaper reported that private investigators were caught using a tracking device to spy on campaigners working to raise the standards of care on pig farms, and that the same private investigators do work for the Pork Industry Board.

“We stand for honest politics and it’s repugnant that, in a democratic society, citizens are tracked simply because of their peaceful political views.”

“The campaigners’ only concern is better treatment of animals and this has been an unacceptable breach of their privacy.

“A law change is not a difficult step. We would only be catching up with other jurisdictions, including Australian states such as New South Wales and Victoria.

“It would also be in line with the Privacy Commissioner’s request, as far back as 2003, that tracking devices should only be legal when used by state agencies, with proper constraints.”

The Privacy Commissioner could take a closer look at the way private investigators such as Thompson and Clark – the company named in today’s story — breach the privacy of political campaigners, Mr Locke added.

The same company paid two students to infiltrate environment, peace and animal rights groups in 2006 to get information for their clients, which included Solid Energy.

The Privacy Commissioner’s comments on tracking: