Politicians line up against Euro email snooping laws

Can cyber-rights succeed where BSE failed?

A British politician is to warn her colleagues that proposals currently being drawn up to tackle cybercrime could lead to a Europe-wide version of the UK's controversial email snooping powers.

Diana Wallis MEP, Liberal Democrat Internet spokesperson in the European Parliament, has already won assurances from European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen that he will investigate the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act to see if breaches key European laws.

Ms Wallis is worried that similar legislation currently being drafted by the Council of Europe, a 41-nation human rights watchdog based in Strasbourg, may also prove to be illegal under European law.

"This makes it all the more urgent that plans for a Europe-wide equivalent being looked at by the Council of Europe are modified," Ms Wallis will tell a meeting of European parliamentarians in Brussels tomorrow night.

"As it stands at the moment, some measures contained in the convention could equate to email snooping powers similar to those in the UK's RIP Act.

"It's down to the European Commission to make sure that the various governments do not get together and agree this convention.

"The Commission has its own proposals on cybercrime and there is no need for such email surveillance measures to be included," she said.

Last month the Council of Europe was forced to redraft the treaty after it received a barrage of complaints from Internet lobby groups.

In a letter from the civil rights umbrella organisation, Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC), critics warned that the legislation was "contrary to well established norms for the protection of the individual" and that it "improperly extends the police authority of national governments".

GILC claimed that such a move would "undermine the development of network security techniques, and that it will reduce government accountability in future law enforcement conduct" and could lead to a "a chilling effect on the free flow of information and ideas".

In spite of aggressive lobbying, the Council of Europe republished the draft treaty last month with few significant amendments.

Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), one of the signatories of the GILC letter, told The Register that he would continue to lobby the Council of Europe since it has not addressed all his concerns.

"I am very much concerned about the way this convention has been developed in secrecy so far," he said.

"In the absence of openness and transparency, it is very difficult to know what is going in Strasbourg."

The Council of Europe draft is not expected to be published until the spring. ®

Related Link

The Council of Europe cybercrime convention
GILC letter to the Council of Europe

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