More government spying on private citizens

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have trained staff to compile dossiers on groups or individuals.

We now know how government agencies have been spying on private citizens, where officials collect information to build a case against citizens who had claims against government departments. I wrote an article where David Slack tried to put the entire blame for this practice squarely on the shoulders of the last National government, because no Labour government could possibly do this, could they?

Well, guess what? Now it appears that MBIE have been using a security firm to train staff to set up and use fake social media accounts to gather intelligence. Lucy Bennett reports: quote.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has hired a security firm to increase staff skills in using fake social media profiles to gather intelligence.
Among the modules offered are harvesting information from social networks, creating back-stories for false online personae and creating dossiers on people and groups.

Details of the $112,000 contract with Wellington firm ZX Security Ltd were released on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website on December 18.

The contract, which was signed in December 2017 and runs until March 2021, is for the delivery of courses on advanced social media search training to groups of around 10 MBIE staff at a time in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Participants are taught how to search and gather information from key social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. end quote.

The contract was signed in December 2017. Didn’t we have a Labour led government by then, David Slack? quote.

Perhaps worryingly for government employees subject to the Official Information Act, the training includes how to send and receive anonymous SMS and email messages. MBIE staff can also learn how to extract metadata from images, including GPS co-ordinates and device information such as mobile phone and camera models, and create detailed dossiers on groups or individuals.

An spokesperson told the?Herald?yesterday the contract with ZX Security was still in operation but the ministry had strict controls on the use of social media for verification and investigation purposes.
Around 70 staff in areas including Immigration New Zealand, Radio Spectrum Management and the Immigration Advisers Authority had completed the one-day course but no staff had so far done optional modules which included harvesting information, analysing image metadata and creating dossiers.
The spokesperson did not directly respond to questions about why staff underwent the training or its purpose. end quote.

You can spin this any way you like, but it is well known that people of certain political leanings are targeted on social media. They are often shadow banned or even banned outright for having views that do not conform with those promoted by the site, but this is a whole new level. Government agencies might be gathering information on these people, meaning it could be used against them in many ways. The fact that officials are taught to use fake social media accounts to build dossiers on people does not sound to me like something an ‘open and transparent’ government should be doing. quote.

[Shane] Jones, the Government’s duty minister yesterday, said the circumstances where such training may be useful was in keeping on top of “dodgy student visas”, referring to cases where?international students had used student visas as a back door to New Zealand residency.
But otherwise, he said, MBIE was a “large body and if it is found to have bureaucratic moles then Peter Hughes is the surgeon to remove them”. end quote.

Yes, that sounds like a legitimate reason for such practices, but the possibilities are endless. I don’t believe for one minute that such practices are not going to be used for the purposes of gathering information about innocent citizens of different political convictions. quote.

“Kiwis should be able to go about their daily business without the fear of bureaucrats peering into their social media,” end quote.

Shane Jones

For once I agree with you, Shane Jones, but I fear the opposite is what we are all facing, without realising it at all. This country becomes more like 1930’s Germany every day.