Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


CREATING A SAFER INFORMATION SOCIETY

(22136)
5894/01
COM(00) 890

Commission Communication — Creating a safer information society by improving the security of information infrastructures and combating computer-related crime: eEurope 2002.
Legal base:
Document originated: 26 January 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 26 January 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 23 February 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 16 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: May 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  12.1  This Communication aims to identify legislative and non-legislative means of preventing, investigating and prosecuting crime committed via information and communications technology, including the Internet. Its proposals take forward both the eEurope Action Plan: eEurope 2002 — An Information Society for All, and the conclusions of the Tampere Special European Council.

  12.2  The Communication has been well-publicised. It was posted on the Commission's computer-related website after publication; a public hearing was held in Brussels on 7 March; and written comments have been invited. A preliminary discussion on the document took place at the JHA Council on 15 and 16 March, and a follow-up is planned for the May Council.

The document

  12.3  The document provides an overview of the current situation It notes that the Council of Europe is in the process of drafting a Convention on cyber-crime, but concludes that there is still room for EU work in the area, which could be operational within a shorter period of time. It states: "On the European level the chosen solutions should not lead to any impediment for and fragmentation of the Internal Market, nor to measures which undermine the protection of fundamental rights."

  12.4  After a detailed discussion of the pertinent issues, the Communication concludes with a useful list of necessary conditions for preventing and effectively combating computer-related crime, and a number of legislative and non-legislative proposals.

Legislative proposals

  12.5  Under this heading, the Commission proposes the following:

  • to approximate Member States' laws and sanctions in the area of child pornography offences;

  • to approximate criminal law in the area of high-tech crime, including offences related to hacking and denial of service attacks;

  • to explore the possibility of action against racism and xenophobia (covering both off-line and on-line activity) and examine how best to tackle the illicit drugs trade on the Internet; and

  • to apply the principle of mutual recognition to pre-trial orders in cyber-crime investigations and to facilitate cross-border computer-related investigations (with appropriate safeguards relating to fundamental rights).

  12.6  It also states that it will assess the need to take any measures on the retention of data related to traffic on communications networks, including the Internet, once the EU Forum has completed work in this area. (This issue appears to have been a controversial topic of discussion at both the public hearing and the JHA Council.)

Non-legislative proposals

  12.7  Under this heading, the Commission's major proposal is the establishment of an EU Forum (which it will chair) to bring together law enforcement agencies, service providers, network operators, consumer groups and data protection authorities. The Forum will raise public awareness, promote best practices for IT security, develop and promote counter-crime tools and procedures, and facilitate co-operation among similar fora in Member States.

  12.8  The creation of police units specialising in computer crime at the national level, where they do not already exist, is also proposed. (This was considered a priority area at the JHA Council.)

The Government's view

  12.9  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) tells us that the Government welcomes this initiative, which matches its own objective of working with industry to ensure a safe and secure environment for e-commerce and to help people trust the Internet. She considers that the detail of the (very broad) proposals and their relative prioritisation should be developed in consultation with Member States and other interested parties.

  12.10  At this stage, it is difficult to assess what the impact of the proposals might be on UK law, but it is possible that legislation might be affected, both by measures arising from the Communication and by initiatives developed by the Forum.

Conclusion

  12.11  This is a useful Communication, providing information about different types of computer-related crime and the practical and ethical issues involved in its prevention, investigation and prosecution. We shall scrutinise with interest any legislative proposals which arise from it.

  12.12  Meanwhile, we clear the document.


 
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