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European Policy, Government Surveillance

International Issues: Cybercrime


Several international initiatives on cybercrime raise concerns for Internet freedom. One is the Council of Europe (COE) treaty on computer crime. Another major issue concerns legal mandates on ISPs to retain data about their customers’ Internet usage. CDT here collects various materials on these and other initiatives.

Council of Europe Treaty

The Council of Europe has adopted a “Convention on Cybercrime,” the first international treaty to address criminal law and procedural aspects of various types of criminal behavior directed against computer systems, networks or data.

The Convention was approved by the COE in November 2001. Thereupon it was opened for signature by member states of the COE and other countries invited by the COE to adopt it. As a treaty, the convention has no binding legal force in any country until it is ratified by the national government. The treaty entered into force on January 7, 2004, after five states ratified it. The US, as a participant in the drafting of the treaty, was invited to ratify the treaty and did so in August 2006.

The Convention requires countries that ratify it to adopt similar criminal laws on hacking, infringements of copyright, computer-related fraud, and child pornography. It also contains provisions on investigative powers and procedures, such as the search of computer networks and interception of communications, and requires cross-border law enforcement cooperation in searches and seizures and extradition. It has been supplemented by an additional protocol making any publication of racist and xenophobic propaganda via computer networks a criminal offence.

Analyses of COE Convention
Industry and Privacy Comments on Drafts of the COE Treaty
Data Retention

One of the most contentious issues is whether governments should require communications service providers to retain traffic data or transactional records on all communications.

COE Protocol on Terrorist Messages
COE Protocol on Racist Speech
European Commission Materials
Other Resources