The Green Party says the Government must reveal the extent to which the United States' National Security Agency has passed information on to it, after revelations the NSA was engaged in widespread spying on telephone and internet communications through its Prism system.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the revelations about the NSA showed it had the capacity to gather data on telephone, email and social media communications, such as on Facebook.

"The question is to what extent has the New Zealand Government been availing itself of that information intercepted by the NSA with regards to New Zealand citizens?"

The Guardian has reported that the United Kingdom received a number of reports about its citizens through the NSA's data collection.


"We need to know to what extent has the New Zealand Government been using Prism, through the USA, to find out about the activities of New Zealand citizens," Dr Norman said.

It was effectively a way to circumvent the legal structure that prevented the Government Communications Security Bureau spying on NZ citizens, because the NSA's extensive powers for telecommunications and electronic communications could do it and pass it on instead.

Labour Party spokeswoman Clare Curran said there were also risks a Prism-type situation could arise in New Zealand once the GCSB Bill and a Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill passed.

She said those bills gave the GCSB powers to spy more widely.

Thomas Beagle, founder of civil liberties watchdog Tech Liberty, said that bills would increase the ability to intercept both telecommunications and internet information.

He said the Telecommunications Bill would extend the interception abilities to include telecommunications service providers such as Trade Me and email providers.

The GCSB Bill, as well as allowing the bureau to spy on New Zealanders on behalf of other agencies, would also let it intercept New Zealand citizens' communications if it was for cybersecurity reasons.

Mr Beagle said that "while people in the USA are getting upset about the revelations of the extent of NSA spying there, these new laws give the GCSB far greater control of New Zealand communications networks and practically unlimited capacity to intercept New Zealand communications".


A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said he did not comment on security and intelligence matters.