Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 10. 22nd May 1975
Big Computer is Watching you
Big Computer is Watching you
An increasing number of people who are concerned about the erosion of civil liberties and the growing trend towards a police state in NZ are asking questions about the new Police Computer at Wanganui. In this article we will answer some of those questions.
The police computer at Wanganui otherwise known as the Law Enforcement Information System was built at a cost of $23.2 million (mainly by US and UK technology). It will have 197 terminals for feeding in and extracting information throughout NZ and 84 of them will be in the hands of the police. Basically, the computer will be used by four government departments coming together to pool their information. They are: The Justice Department, Police Department, Ministry of Transport and The State Services Commission.
What information will be stored in this Data Bank? Well, the Justice Dept. claim that they will not be storing anything that is not now the subject of manual record. But, however, this is only the claim of one government department using the computer. In a recent radio program the Justice Dept. was the only one of the four departments using the computer that was prepared to comment. We suspect that there is something they don't want us to know. But, we can draw our own conclusions from their refusal to discuss the issue — for example: a reason for having this surveillance system is so that information held by the departments concerned can be centralised and any department using the computer will have access to any information stored in it, so the information can be shared around, etc., which makes the Justice Department claim seem like a joke. This beginning of a Big Brother type scheme could, and probably will, escalate — eg. a senior government Civil Servant, Mr. Lisco said the government could save millions of dollars if it was to keep business files on everyone and centralise its information. It is also interesting to note former national minister for State Services Mr. Thompson's views on the situation. Thompson supports the centralizing of government records and denies the right of any individual to know what information government departments are keeping about him or her, or to check directly what information was held by him/her in the police computer. Also interesting is the answer to the question: most of the technology for this computer comes from the USA and UK, they've had a lot of information leaks, what guarantee is there that ours will be any better than theirs?
|a)||Ethical conduct of the people here is good and we are less subject to corruption.|
|b)||The computer profession has a good record for doing a workmanlike fob.|
Hardly a convincing answer.
Talking of corruption, it is again interesting to note that the Wanganui computer has a fifth department which will be using the computer, although preferring to remain anonymous: The Security Intelligence Service (SIS). The SIS will also be able to record intimate details about anyone considered to be a threat to the state and to record the contacts of such people. This recording of contacts (friends, workmates, etc.) is not limited to political offenders, it includes anyone who has had dealings with the law, including those laying complaints. It is significant that the FBI computer system in the USA started off with similar excuses to those being offered here: a record of criminals, missing persons, vehicles and fire arms, etc.
But there, as undoubtedly will be the case here, the FBI computer has extended to include files on ordinary people who may be friends or neighbours of criminals, political dissidents or trade union militants.
Why the need for computers such as these?
The main use is for the benefit of the capitalist class as a whole to keep intact its profit system, whether the challenge is a petty theft as a servant or political organising to change the system.
The Auckland Progressive Youth Movement is planning a Campaign against the Police-'Justice' Department Computer Centre in Wanganui. We are asking for support from all organisations and individuals sympathetic to the Defence of Democratic Rights.
This slide towards Fascism is not inevitable, it can be reversed. Our first priority for this task is to make the people of NZ aware of the danger to our Civil Liberties. The exposure of the Potential of the Wanganui Computer is an important part of this struggle.
The protest will take place in Wanganui over Queens Birthday Weekend, from Friday 30 May to Monday 2 June. Proposed activities spread over the weekend include leaflet and poster distribution. Guerrilla Theatre, extensive door knocking and public meeting, with the weekend activities culminating in a march on the Computer Centre itself.
Anyone who has contacts in Wanganui, or could provide local information or help with organisation in Wanganui please contact us as soon as possible.
If you could help with organisation in your area, distribution of leaflets and posters, etc. also please contact us. We need to know how many people are likely to come fairly soon in order to arrange transport, accomodation, food, etc.
Any financial aid would be appreciated. Please register letters.