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Cyberlaw gets privacy update

EC wraps up cybercrime treaty but gets some verbal

Civil liberty campaigners are maintaining their opposition to an international treaty aimed at combating online crime. Campaigners say a draft of the treaty, which was published by the Council of Europe on Friday, "lacks privacy assurances".

In true Eurocratic, capital letter-heavy style, the ‘Draft Convention on Cybercrime, Version No 27 Revised', will be submitted to the European Committee on Crime Problems on 18 June. It could be adopted by member states before the end of the year.

"There are some nice changes [in this latest draft], but we are not overly impressed," said Gus Hosein, a senior fellow at civil liberty campaign group Privacy International and a lecturer at the London School of Economics. "It is still a problematic document. The increase of the powers of law enforcement waters down the protection of human rights."

The 113-page draft treaty sets legal rules and guidelines for actions such as obtaining information from ISPs, tapping and collecting traffic data and content data, the extradition of cyber criminals and international cooperation among authorities. States that sign the treaty will have to change their national laws to reflect these guidelines.

Hosein is not the only person to express concern over the contents of the cybercrime document. Overseers in the EC have formed a ‘working party on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data'. Set up to monitor privacy issues in the directive, the group seems to share Hosein’s view, if not his ire.

"The Working Party notes the efforts being made in many areas to combat cybercrime and supports the general objectives of these efforts," reads the working party's latest official opinion. "Nevertheless… a fair balance must be struck between anti-cybercrime efforts and the fundamental rights to privacy and personal data protection of individuals."

In response to pressure from campaigners, the directive has been amended so it now specifies that member states must obey UN international human rights law. But this concession does not go far enough for some.

"One article that says privacy will be protected is not enough," said Hosein. "We want clear language in each article stating privacy is important. National governments will pick and choose. They will go to wire-tapping first and get to Article 15 later."
Hosein said he feels the treaty still contains major flaws, such as the absence of a data protection clause. Nobody at the Council of Europe was available for comment.

For more information on the EC's approach to digital crime, click here.


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