GCSB boss Ian Fletcher has offered everyday New Zealanders an assurance they were not being spied on or listened to by the GCSB but suggests a public discussion needs to take place on greater regulation of the internet.
Talking to reporters outside a Privacy Forum in Wellington today, Mr Fletcher said: "First of all it would be illegal if we were doing that and we don't act outside the framework of the law, that's a really important point to start with".
Mr Fletcher also underlined the point he made in his speech the forum that "the internet is very big and the real interest that Governments have in looking at behaviour on the internet focuses on really bad stuff - people who are actually spying or organising terrorist activity or engaged in really serious organised crime and the scale of the internet is such that resources of Governments get focused on the stuff that really matters rather than behaviour might wish people didn't know about but doesn't really amount to the type of threat we're talking about."
He also offered an assurance that neither the GCSB or any foreign agency was engaged in the mass collection of metadata or information about New Zealanders' communications which can be sifted for patterns that might point to areas of interest for authorities.
"We don't do that stuff. It's important to keep on saying that."
Mr Fletcher said his speech to the forum today was intended to "move the debate to start thinking about the kind of organisation, rules and framework for order that our community might want to have so that we can all live our online lives as safely as we can".
In his speech, Mr Fletcher made the point that New Zealanders lived an increasing portion of their lives online, "in an environment which is much less well governed than we are used to".
He said privacy online without "some level of security is likely to be sub optimal for many people and we should think about that".
"The kind of security I am referring to is not censorship, nor really anything to do with content. Rather it is the kind of framework of law and order, supporting our ability to go about a lawful business, which we have built up so painstakingly and painfully in the analogue world, really since civilizations began."
Mr Fletcher said he was not advocating any particular solution but "I am arguing that it's an important issue we should think about and caricaturing privacy and security as conflicting values is not an adequate response".