Cyber-Rights Groups Join Forces to Oppose Anti-Privacy Cybercrime Treaty

December 13, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON–An international coalition of cyberliberties and human rights groups today warned that provisions of a draft international cybercrime treaty pose a serious threat to individual privacy in the United States and worldwide.

In a letter sent to Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary General Walter Schwimmer and its Committee of Experts on Cyber Crime, the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) said that the cyber crime convention “threatens the rights of the individual while extending the powers of police authorities, creates a low-barrier protection of rights uniformly across borders, and ignores highly-regarded data protection principles.”

“The new document would permit government agents to invade the privacy of law-abiding citizens,” said Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, a founding member of GILC. “We call on governments around the world to reject the treaty because it does not provide enough protection to fundamental human rights.”

David Sobel, General Counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), also a GILC founding member, added that, “despite some minor changes from the earlier drafts, the treaty still reads like a law enforcement wish list. The only way to change that would be to open up the drafting process and allow meaningful participation from all affected interests.”

Among other things, the coalition said that the latest draft Convention on Cyber Crime (which is being spearheaded by the Council of Europe and U.S. law enforcement officials):

* Specifically allows real-time collection and recording of Internet transmissions–thus permitting the widescale use of controversial government spyware programs such as Carnivore.

* Forces ordinary Internet users to turn over decryption keys and other personal information to the government–which will not only erode online privacy, but may also violate the right against self-incrimination.

* Promotes the use of invasive techniques for virtually any crime. While the treaty contains small limitations on the use of interception, “which … can only be used for ‘serious offences to be determined by domestic law,'” this limitation may have little effect, because many countries have extremely broad definitions of serious crime for wiretapping purposes.

Was largely created in secret–a process that is clearly “at odds with democratic decision making.” The letter’s signatories called on government representatives to “learn and practice responsiveness to consultation by incorporating and protecting human rights.”

The full letter is posted on the GILC website at

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