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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 13:15 GMT
Cybercrime treaty gets green light
The Council of Europe debating chamber in Strasbourg, AP
Months of talk has produced a controversial cybercrime treaty
A controversial treaty that tries to tackle cybercrime has been adopted by the 43-nation Council of Europe.

The treaty outlaws some online activities such as fraud and child pornography, clarifies some jurisdictional issues and outlines what police forces can do when pursuing computer criminals.

The treaty is due to be signed by member states later this month, but it will take years to be formally adopted and influence legislation in the individual countries taking it up.

Critics say the treaty grants sweeping snooping powers to police forces, but does little to protect online privacy and liberty. An early draft of the treaty was condemned as "appalling" by pressure groups.

Cybercrime blueprint

The treaty tries to standardise just what constitutes cybercrime and allows national police forces to ask their overseas counterparts to help with investigations or even detain suspects wanted in connection with the crimes they commit overseas.

Its lack of consideration towards civil liberties [is] appalling

Global Internet Liberty Campaign
The treaty passed through more than 27 drafts before reaching its final version.

The final document is widely seen as a blueprint that will be followed by other regional organisations and governments when updating existing laws or drafting similar legislation.

Member states will get a chance to sign the treaty at a cybercrime conference taking place in Budapest on 23 November.

The treaty comes into force once five nations, including at least three that are CoE members, have ratified it. Already the US, Japan and Canada have been invited to adopt the treaty.

Democratic conflict

Critics of the treaty have few complaints about what it categorises as criminal, but they do worry that the powers it grants to police forces could erode online privacy.

Many nations, such as the UK, already have in place legislation that lets police forces monitor online life, and some experts fear that these powers will be extended by nations adopting the treaty.

Early drafts of the treaty brought the condemnation of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign - a broad coalition of more than 30 groups, which includes civil libertarians, think-tanks, ethical hackers and academics.

GILC expressed its misgivings about the treaty in a letter released late last year.

It said the process by which the treaty was drafted was "at odds with democratic decision making" because much of it was done in secret.

The letter said the treaty's "lack of consideration towards civil liberties was appalling" and called on the Council to redraft it.

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Business
Calls for cybercrime database
18 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Cybercrime treaty condemned
11 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Treaty 'could stifle online privacy'
18 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Cybercops arrest online liberty
30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
Council of Europe
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