Privileges Committee to look at swipe cards

July 12th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Speaker David Carter has asked the to draw up rules setting out the circumstances under which information such as security access details can be released, after concerns were raised that such details were used without permission to track the movements of United Future’s Peter Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance. …

Mr Carter dismissed a complaint by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman against the Prime Minister over the issue, but said Dr Norman’s complaint did raise serious issues that the Privileges Committee was best-placed to look into.

“The exercise of intrusive powers against members threatens members’ freedom to carry out their functions as elected representatives and the House’s powers to control its own proceedings and precincts without outside interference.”

He said the release of information relating to journalists working in Parliament also raised concerns.

“While the media do not necessarily participate directly in Parliamentary proceedings, they are critical to informing the public about what Parliament is doing and public confidence in Parliament. Actions which may put at risk journalists’ ability to report freely are a significant concern.”

However, Mr Carter said Parliament was also a workplace for Parliamentary and Government department staff, so access to such data also had to pay regard to the rights of employers and employees.

“I believe some common understanding is required to ensure that on the one hand, the functioning of the House and discharge of members’ duties is not obstructed or impeded, but on the other hand the maintenance of law and order and the ability to investigate and prosecute offences committed within the Parliamentary precincts is preserved.”

This is a good decision. Some clarity on this issue would be welcome. As I previously said, I thought the decision to access and release the swipe card details of a journalist was the wrong call.

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12 Responses to “Privileges Committee to look at swipe cards”

  1. Pete George (22,784 comments) says:

    Yes, a good decision.

    It’s not clear if this will be addressed:

    Information held within this system can be reviewed where a breach of security is alleged to have occurred. However, the Service does not keep a database of instances when swipe card information is retrieved following a security incident.

    This confirms what Felix Marwick was told when he asked if the had every accessed his security data – he was told they don’t keep a record.

    So they currently can’t or won’t say how often it has happened, whose data has been accessed, why, and on what authority.

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  2. graham (2,214 comments) says:

    Good that it will be clarified, but I still disagree with your assessment that the decision to access and release the swipe card details of a journalist was the wrong call.

    If you’re issued a swipe card it is to allow you access to SOMEONE ELSE’S PROPERTY. I have previously posted that I work for a large company where entry to every office and building is controlled by swipe card. I’ve received phone calls from the security operations centre when they’ve noticed a “door open” alarm that hasn’t cleared and I’ve been through that door. Some years ago I was asked to account for my presence at a site early in the morning around the same time some equipment went missing from that site (no it wasn’t me!) This is pretty standard nowadays.

    Let’s put this in context. Swipe card records show where somebody was at a certain time. Nothing more. Somebody may enter offices and rooms for any number of reasons. Looking at somebody’s movements through the building is not going to tell you their reasons or motives for making those movements, unless interpreted in conjunction with other data.

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  3. Drone (9 comments) says:

    The release of information to all and sundry is what you get when you get an ex military plod in charge of the Parliamentary Service.

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  4. Pete George (22,784 comments) says:

    Some more context graham, a real life example that illustates the danger of building a case on data like this.

    A journalist leaves Parliament just before lunchtime.
    An MP leaves Parliament just before lunchtime and returns about an hour later.

    The MP is accused of handing over a report. This is the basis for an accusation made in an inquiry that led to the resignation of a minister.

    The initial accusation was that the report had been handed over the previous day as security data showed that the MP had visited Parliament (on a Sunday). But it was then discovered that the journalist being investigated was in the South Isalnd that day.

    Use and misuse of basic security data can have major effects, and they did in this case without data being found that actually proved anything.

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  5. davidp (3,540 comments) says:

    Maybe the Privileges Committee can also decide if MPs are allowed to demand that the Police access the e-mail of other MPs and journalists. It’d be nice to have this answered in the negative before Russell Norman is in a position to access other peoples’ e-mail whenever he is feeling a bit angry or wants to bully a minor party MP.

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  6. Pete George (22,784 comments) says:

    I’m particularly keen on strict protocols for access of and recording of the access of data and communications details being put in place before we get a Speaker like, say, Mallard. And before someone like Cosgrove is on Privileges Committee.

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  7. graham (2,214 comments) says:

    Pete, in reply to your 3:47 comment.

    You have previously accused David Henry of being slipshod, biased, of having an agenda to get Dunne, and of running a kangaroo style court. You have questioned his motives and methods. In short, you have rubbished the report and how it was compiled.

    In other words, the issue is not the data – it is how it was used, and the conclusions drawn from it, according to you.

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  8. Pete George (22,784 comments) says:

    But it was the data graham – first, the email log data, he seems to have made a conclusion from that – as you did purely on numbers of emails without comparing them to anyone else or any other period – then the security card data which he tried to use to prove his theory.

    You haven’t answered the question of why Henry only considered that the report would have been leaked on the days after Dunne got back from holiday and he didn’t report invesitgating anything on the days Dunne was overseas.

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  9. rouppe (915 comments) says:

    I also disagree that swipe card data should not be accessed.

    First, there was a security breach. A report was inappropriately leaked to a journalist.

    Based on this breach I think it is entirely appropriate that all information be assessed. This should include security video footage, swipe card logs, phone logs (not private phones, only parliamentary services provided ones) and anything else reasonably allowed to be monitored without breaching a persons privacy. In my view this also includes email traffic. Let me say now that the assessment should also remain confidential unless/until a breach is determined. This is standard behavior at any workplace. My employer reserves the right to examine any emails I send or receive from my employer-provided email service. MP’s are employed by Parliamentary Services. Parliamentary Services absolutely has the right to examine this stuff. If I want to email a filthy message, I should use my private email devices.

    Pete, just as jumping to conclusions from insufficient data can lead to an unjust opinion, these logs and video and email traffic can just as easily exonerate someone. “I wasn’t there” is easily determined, but if you exclude examining the logs, you also exclude the possibility of proving innocence.

    I think the media bleating about not having their access monitored is curious. Why should they worry? Are they so stupid that they receive leaked reports on parliament grounds? Are leakers so stupid they use parliamentary phones to call journalists with leaks?If that’s the case then it’s a Dumb and Dumber movie.

    Security and logging is there to provide information when a security breach has occurred. It should be used.

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  10. Pete George (22,784 comments) says:

    If security data should be accessd whenever something is leaked in Parliament(which, we are told, is all the time be everyone) it should be on a publicly accessible database that has plenty of capacity, it will be going flat stick.

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  11. flipper (3,544 comments) says:

    Can someone tell me when there was a “security breech” ???

    The document in question was a draft of a unclassified report that was to have been made public about seven days later.

    Yes, it was inconvenient for the PM and the media that did not get the break, but a security breech? Absolutely NOT.

    One further point: Parliament is NOT a Government departmental or other public building, and it does NOT belong to Parliamentary Services, whose butts should be publicly kicked. Totally different rules apply. Police, Court Officials and other similar folk, are required to operate under guidelines laid down by the Speaker. They cannot do as they please.

    The tractor on the steps and Shane Aderne is a recent case in point. But Peter Tapsell famously told the anti-smoking Nazis to bugger off when they tried to stop him using his pipe in his offices. He reminded them that he, as Speaker, sets the rules for the Houses of Parliament and its grounds.

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  12. niggly (799 comments) says:

    I think the media bleating about not having their access monitored is curious. Why should they worry?

    Why should they worry?

    Heehee maybe the media don’t want their movements tracked – it could spoil the fun they have at their Press Gallery Christmas Party piss-ups, like when some sneek into ‘sacred’ places to have a joint? Any swipe card trail will give them away ;-)

    An Alliance press secretary, Steve Collett, and journalist Alastair Thompson were accused of smoking marijuana in the House on the night of the Press Gallery Christmas party.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=125313

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