Certain government departments (like the GCSB) are able to request information from ISPs about their customers. This is an important crime-fighting tool. To protect citizen’s rights against illegal or unfair surveillance, ISPs can publish transparency reports that detail the information that the government is requesting.
Why we care
Because human rights should apply online. We believe that New Zealanders have a right to know who is accessing their data and under what authority. Law enforcement and national security are important. But these must be subject to the oversight that results from being open and transparent about these activities.
Because the Internet should be open. If too much user data was being accessed by government or law enforcement, then there would be a significant effect on the Internet’s utility, which would cease to be open.
Why should you care?
Transparency reports are the best tools available for you to evaluate if government and law enforcement agencies are using their power appropriately. ISPs should publicly publish annual reports that details all user data requests received from government, law enforcement or other agencies, as well as a summary of the data that the company provided in response.
Reports allow you to evaluate the truth of government claims that they only require special access to data in extreme cases. If requests for emails are in the dozens, you may have a different reaction to the same requests numbering into the 10,000s. Overseas, it is also common for providers to report the requests they refuse – a factor that may influence your choice of provider.