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Home » Hacking News » European Cyber-Crime Treaty Clears Penultimate Hurdle

European Cyber-Crime Treaty Clears Penultimate Hurdle

by Majik on September 21st, 2001 Key representatives for the Council of Europe on Wednesday signed off on the so-called Convention on Cyber-crime, a global treaty to harmonize laws against crime committed via the Internet.


The Council of Europe's Deputy Ministers approved the treaty without alteration, clearing the way for formal adoption by the Foreign Affairs Ministers at their meeting in Strasbourg on Nov. 8.





Sources familiar with the process say the Council of Ministers nearly always rubber-stamps proposals approved by the deputies. Assuming the ministers sign off on the convention, it will be set for signature by the 43 members of the Council of Europe’s at the council's meeting in Budapest, Hungary in late November.





The treaty will become binding when five states, at least three of which are members of the Council of Europe, have ratified it. The Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the United States are expected to be among the first signatories to the convention.





The convention was drafted as an attempt to set some level of legal and ethical standards for online activity. Ratifying members will be required to pass similar legislation to combat a host of Internet crimes, including copyright infringement, child pornography and malicious hacking.





But the multi-country treaty has thus far come under fire from several consumer and civil liberties groups, who are concerned that the convention could lead to the emergence of an international electronic surveillance network, or a kind of "global Big Brother."





The convention also requires the United States to participate in an investigation for a crime that does not meet the "dual criminality" standard, where the crime in question is either committed by or against a U.S. citizen, said Barry Steinhardt, associate director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).





"This treaty will require the U.S. to engage in wiretapping or tracing of electronic communications for something that’s not a crime" by U.S. laws, Steinhardt said. "This isn't a cyber-crime treaty: It's really a treaty aimed at combating any crime committed with a computer."





The treaty also has earned criticism from First Amendment rights groups, which note that the convention will be supplemented by an additional protocol making any Internet publication of racist or xenophobic material a criminal offense.





Steinhardt said while the United States may sign the treaty, it won't be ratified until approved by the Senate. One highly influential Senator – Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Republican Jesse Helms, R-N.C., - has traditionally opposed mutual assistance treaties that don't contain so-called "dual criminality" clauses.





Still, Steinhardt said, given Congress's willingness to extend additional investigative authority to the nation's law enforcement agencies in the wake of last week's terrorists attacks, the Senate may yet readily embrace the convention.





"It isn't necessarily a slam-dunk, but I think the odds for ratification are higher now than they were before last week's horrible tragedy," he said.






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