Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill first reading Keith Locke


The Green Party will also be supporting the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, but we have similar criticisms to those outlined by the Labour speakers about the elimination of clause 66. There has been a huge expansion in the number of security guards in New Zealand; a figure of 18,000 has been thrown around by two previous speakers, although that 18,000 covers both security guards and private investigators. When I think back to when I was growing up, we hardly had any security guards in our society. When we went along to a dance, there might be somebody on the door who could be described as a security guard, although in those days they did not tend to wear any uniforms. Now, everywhere we go there are people in different uniforms running around, doing security duties. It makes us wonder what has changed in our society. I think that one of the problems is that our society has become more unequal. There is more alienation and more problems of people who will descend into bad behaviour, theft, and things like that. I think that we have to address this problem. Although we are supporting this bill because it will put certain organisation and certain restraints around the operation of security guards and private investigators, which is all to the good, we have to look at the underlying problem of why this industry has expanded so much. The bill also recognises that people who are security guards and have these uniforms on do not have any more rights or powers than any other citizen. I think that that has to be taken into account.

The provisions of the bill that cover private investigators recognise that private investigators create certain difficulties in society, and it is appropriate that they be regulated. Some of those investigators can get a bit out of hand. There has been a lot of controversy over a particular company called Thompson and Clark Investigations, which was discovered a couple of years back putting an agent into a voluntary group called the Save Happy Valley Coalition, which was trying to protect a pristine area on the West Coast, its trees, and its wildlife from despoliation by unnecessary mining. Thompson and Clark Investigations, which is a private investigating group, put an agent into that group, creating suspicion among members of the group about who might be an agent, who might not be, and all that sort of thing. It is quite wrong to infiltrate groups in that way, and it should only be done by the police when they are dealing with really serious criminality. Otherwise, if we are dealing with good people—and in this case they were good people—it only creates suspicion and erodes the solidarity that is necessary for voluntary organisations to prosper in society. It was a great intrusion into the privacy of the individuals of the Save Happy Valley Coalition. More recently, Thompson and Clark Investigations was revealed in an article published about a month ago in the

Sunday Star-Times

to have put a tracking device on the car of an animal rights activist named Rochelle Rees, who had been involved with others in an animal rights group and in campaigns against factory-chicken farming, sow crates, and the like. For that activity, her privacy about where she was moving in society was being tracked by private investigators. Now that we see private investigators using that technology and being so intrusive into the lives of others, it is appropriate that they be properly restrained. Chester Borrows chairs the Justice and Electoral Committee on this and other bills very ably, and he said that because of the regulation, training, and everything else that private security guards and investigators undertake, they should be trusted more than the rest of the population to carry out certain functions, but are actually less trusted in that they somehow have fewer rights because of restrictions on their use of audio and video recording and taking of photographs. He also referred to the Search and Surveillance Bill, which is currently before the select committee. I think that bill explains why we have to be careful about getting rid of clause 66 of this bill. The Greens are somewhat critical of the Search and Surveillance Bill, but there are some good aspects to it, in terms of regulating the use of search and surveillance by police and other State agencies. The idea is not that those agencies are any less capable or skilled. Of course, they are trained as well, but because their particular task involves intruding on people’s privacy through search or surveillance work, they are subject to certain controls and regulations, and rightfully so. It is the same with private investigators as well. In this society they make their money by intruding into the privacy of people, often in quite an extensive way, and, with the growth of new technologies such as digital technology, tracking devices, and all the rest, they can intrude to a greater degree than in the past. Restraining them from using those devices is appropriate. The world has not fallen over through the restrictions that have been imposed on them to date in terms of using audio and video devices and taking photographs. Why should we not continue to impose restrictions? We say “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”, and as it is not really broken, we should restrain security guards in that way. It was wrong to say that we should get rid of clause 66 and that instead we could have a code of conduct further down the track. I do not think that is a sufficient way to operate. There should not be a change in the law or the current practice until some alternative is sorted out, and the Greens do not necessarily think that a code of conduct will be the most appropriate way forward. The other thing is that the Law Commission is still in the midst of trying to work out appropriate changes to privacy legislation for the population as a whole. It is true that at the present time members of the public have greater rights, to a certain extent, than some of the agencies. For instance, at the moment anyone can put a tracking device on my car or anyone else’s car, or put a tracking device on our clothing, and that will be completely within the law. If the police do that, they must have a warrant, and under the Search and Surveillance Bill other people will need to have a warrant as well. The question of the new technology being used in an appropriate way is being dealt with by the Privacy Commissioner and the Law Commission at the present time. The Law Commission has done a lot of work on the area. I think we should wait until all that work comes back before we go ahead and give such agencies more powers. We are discussing in debates on other bills such as the Identity Information Confirmation Bill that technology allows for more and greater intrusions into our privacy than ever before. Facial recognition systems are being used at our airports to compare the appearance of people going through airports with the photos that are on their passports, but now they are being used in more general society too. That can intrude on people’s privacy, as their whereabouts and identity, and movements can all be tracked by facial recognition systems. Those systems are now being used by the Google company in its Picasa Web Albums. Using that new technology people can check a photograph of a person’s face against thousands and thousands of other photographs all at once. I use that as an illustration to show that when discussing the expansion of technology that intrudes on our privacy we have to consider carefully how it might be applied by private investigators and the like in our society today. Thank you.