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Sign the Cybercrime Convention, urge secureocrats

Not so fast, say critics

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Politicians, police and representatives from business are gathering in Strasburg this week to push forward international efforts to combat cybercime.

A key aim of the three-day conference is to encourage more countries to sign up to the Council of Europe's Cybercrime Convention, the first international treaty to address electronic crimes. Eight countries have ratified and 30 have signed the convention (list here), which came into force in July 2004. The Council of Europe wants more states (including countries outside Europe) to back the treaty.

The treaty aims to harmonise computer crime laws around the world. But the convention is controversial. In paving the way for cross-border cybercrime investigation, the convention obliges signatories such as the US to cooperate with repressive regimes, critics say. The ratification of the Treaty would make data regarding US citizens available to governments around the world, with little oversight or control, according to leading critic Privacy International.

The conference - organised by the Council of Europe - also provides a forum to discuss all manner of problems from "cyber terrorism", fraud and child pornography to data protection and copyright violation. According to the Internet Fraud Complaints Centre, cyber criminals caused an estimated €150bn to €200bn ($182bn-$243bn) worth of damage in 2003. In Germany cybercrimes accounted for just 1.3 per cent of recorded crimes but 57 per cent - or € 6.8bn ($8.3bn) - of the financial damages arising from criminal activity. Only with a co-ordinated international response will we be able to contain cybercrime in its many guises, the Council says.

"It is urgent to get this important treaty ratified by as many nations as possible. The European Cybercrime Convention is not just a treaty for the European continent: it is one for all nations of this planet," Guy De Vel, the Council of Europe's legal affairs chief, said at the opening of the conference yesterday, AP reports. ®

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