The completion of the controversial Council of Europe cybercrimes treaty edged a step closer this week, when it was discussed by committee members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in public for the first time.
The international treaty, which is now in its 25th draft and could be law by the end of the year, is designed to harmonise cybercrime laws among the 43 member states in the Council.
But critics fear that it will stifle the growth of the internet, and that it gives too much power to law enforcers and governments. According to Fred Eisener, a consultant to the Dutch government, the draft treaty "lacks balance".
Caspar Bowden, director of the Federation for Information Policy Research, said that there were structural problems with the proposed treaty, and that it does not go far enough to protect the privacy of web users.
However, despite massive objections the Council of Europe seems intent on bulldozing on with the treaty.
"Although this is opposed by certain associations there is close interest in the draft well beyond Europe," said Ivar Tallo, the Estonian politician who drafted the proposed treaty. It was last amended in November after a welter of objections.
In a separate development, the European Commission is holding meetings with police authorities and IT experts today to discuss proposals to tackle cybercrime. Unlike the Council of Europe, the Commission is not proposing to bring in legislation, but is holding hearings in order to help it formulate policy.
Bowden said that the Commission's approach to tackling cybercrime was preferable, adding that it seems to have ruled out giving governments access to public keys.
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