Europe mulls anti-ID theft law

But doesn't expect it to be useful

The European Commission is considering new legislation against identity theft. The proposal is contained in a just-published policy on EU-wide plans to fight cybercrime.

The European Commission's policy on fighting cybercrime in Europe is the product of many years of consultation and focuses on greater co-operation between European police forces.

Though the commission said that it did not believe that new legislation would be useful at this stage in stopping the fast growth of cybercrime, it said it will consider anti-ID theft laws later this year.

"No general legislation on the fight against cyber crime can be expected to be effective at this moment," said a commission statement. "However, targeted legislative actions may also prove to be appropriate or needed in specific areas. As an example, the commission will consider an initiative regarding European legislation against identity theft in 2007. Legislative action could also include developing a regulation on the responsibility of different actors in the relevant sector."

Overall, the commission said its cybercrime fighting policies would depend on improved co-operation and communication between law enforcement forces across Europe.

"The main feature of this policy instrument is a proactive policy in reinforcing the structures for operational law enforcement cooperation," said the commission statement. "The commission will launch a reflection on how this cooperation can be strengthened and improved."

In a move which could prove controversial, the commission said its new policy included "actions to improve exchange of information" between law enforcement agencies. Attempts to share increasing amounts of information between police forces in Europe have met with opposition.

Europe's privacy watchdog the European Data Protection Supervisor recently warned of his "grave concern" that data sharing plans was a "lowest common denominator approach that would hinder the fundamental rights of EU citizens".

Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted to support the reinstatement of data protection principles into a European plan to share data across police forces.

"The policy instrument includes actions to improve exchange of information and best practices, initiatives to improve training and awareness-raising within law enforcement authorities," said the commission's statement on its plan.

The commission also wants to create new public-private projects designed to fight crime. This could also raise privacy problems because state bodies in Europe are often reluctant to share personal information with the private sector.

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