Muslim community in New Zealand asks government ministry to stop using Israeli company’s spyware

RELIGIONS NEWS AGENCY (REDNA) – The New Zealand Muslim community says spyware at a government ministry could be used to eavesdrop on local Palestinians communicating with family in Gaza.

“MZ” reports the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) uses internet-scouring tools developed by an Israeli company, Cobwebs Technologies.

The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) in a letter to the government, made a four-point call that included an immediate stop to using Cobwebs.

“It does have the potential to track and trace and monitor the … communications between Palestinians in New Zealand, with their families in Gaza,” said spokesperson Abdur Razzaq.

“The only solace they have is to communicate with their people.

“We want it to be stopped straightaway because there is no external, democratic oversight of this software.”

The ministry said it “can categorically state that the Cobwebs tools used at MBIE are not targeted at any specific nationality or ethnic group”.

“The tools are only used for maritime mass arrival prevention,” Jacqui Ellis, general manager of data, insights and intelligence said in a statement.

Other spyware with roots in the Israeli intelligence sector has been highly controversial globally.

FIANZ in its letter also called for New Zealand to suspend a March 2020 agreement with Israel over technological innovation research and development, expel Israel’s ambassador, and increase humanitarian aid to international agencies in Gaza.

It said it appreciated New Zealand’s recent vote on Gaza at the UN General Assembly, but called for the government to employ urgent diplomatic advocacy to seek “a complete cessation of hostilities”.


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