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European treaty on Cybercrime condemned as ‘appalling’


Since 1997, the 41 nation Council of Europe has been working on a Cybercrime Treaty which is trying to harmonise laws against malicious hacking, virus writing, fraud and child pornography on the internet. It is also trying to aim at ensuring that police forces in separate countries have the same standard of evidence that should help track and catch criminal.

In it's initial release the Council received many criticisms in e-mails, letters and faxes stating that it could do serious damage to civil liberties. Therefore, after the initial posting, a new draft of the treaty was released which the Council had claimed addressed many of the criticisms made of the treaty.

Many of the organisations that voiced their fears over the first public draft stated that the new version did very little to allay their fears. No-one is opposed to the treaty, but one reason for concern is that the draft was created behind closed doors rather than enabling a forum for organisations to contribute and allow differences of opinion to be voiced and addressed.

Other concerns regarding the treaty are:

  • that this could dramatically restrict the free flow of information and ideas,
  • law enforcement agencies would be given wide-ranging snooping powers without having to go through proper channels to obtain permission for domestic surveillance,
  • allow people to be charged for computer crimes, even though the country where they live does not consider what they did as a crime.

Those British signatories stated their reasons for protesting were that the treaty appears to go much further than the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, in giving police powers to snoop without having to be accountable.


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