The controversial New Zealand internet filter has been named as the ‘Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System' with a code of practice published.

Available on the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs website, it is open for public comment until 28th September and will be available voluntarily to internet service providers (ISPs) in the next two months.

The draft document claimed that the filter is ‘designed to assist in combating the trade in child sexual abuse images by making it more difficult for persons with a sexual interest in children to access that material'.

It further claimed that the filter's blacklist is ‘reviewed monthly, manually, to ensure that it is up to date and that the possibility of false positives is removed'. It also stated that ‘additions are only made to the list with the agreement of at least three warranted inspectors of publications that the material on the website meets the criterion that they explicitly show children being sexually abused'.  

In a possible aim to allay the fears of freedom campaigners, it also claimed that ‘all sites on the list are visited and have a report that identifies the investigating officer and what he or she saw on the site when it was last reviewed'. A release by the Department of Internal Affairs also claimed that ‘it will focus solely on websites offering clearly objectionable images of child sexual abuse, which is a serious offence for anyone in New Zealand to access'.

It also clarified that the only data that will be collected will be the connection number, or IP address, local IP that is ‘anonymised to protect the identity of the requester', request to encompass the originating site and the requested site and a remote IP that relates to the address of the remote site.

It said: “As no identifiable information is stored about the user requesting a website, this data cannot be used in support of any investigation or enforcement activity undertaken by the Department. However, the data will be used for statistical and reporting purposes, for example to inform the Department of the level of demand in New Zealand for child sexual abuse images.”

Logs will be kept for 30 days, which is the standard period for keeping logs for troubleshooting and is consistent with Rule 9 of the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code 2003. At the end of this period the logs are then manually deleted and a record is made noting this.

Keith Manch, deputy secretary of Internal Affairs, said that the filter will be operated by the department in partnership with ISPs. He said: “The code of practice provides assurance that only website pages containing images of child sexual abuse will be filtered and the privacy of ISP customers is maintained. The filter will not cover email, file sharing or borderline material.

“The filtering list of over 7,000 objectionable websites will be retained at the Department of Internal Affairs. The list will be reviewed manually monthly to ensure that it is up to date and that the possibility of false positives is removed.”

Geekzone.co.nz founder and blogger Mauricio Freitas, who has criticised the concept of the filter in the past, said: “The DIA confirms what most tech savvy people knows: the trade of this kind of content is done under strict secrecy using protocols that are not being filtered. The DIA will continue to investigate (as they already do) and prosecute (well done).

“This filter is just to prevent good people like you and me coming across this kind of material by accident. In all a good cause. I was just expecting another paragraph there saying ‘this code is to make it clear no other type of content will be added to the filtered system at a later stage'.”