Update: See also the follow-up to this post “Cybercrime in Europe and the European Union: No personal affair!“
“[T]he author of this paper is reasonably confident that by banning a certain kind of criminal activity throughout a large number of countries, which eventually will be under a legal obligation to help each other prosecute those committing such activity, an international treaty will bring a significant change and make the Internet and computer-based communications safer“
These are the words of Péter Csonka in the academic journal Computer Law & Security Report 16(5) of October 2000. At the time, Mr Csonka was (according to the short paper) a lawyer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (note: The Council of Europe is not an EU institution!), where he was inter alia participating in the secretariat of the European Committee on Crime Problems that was dealing with the drafting of of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (cf. the meeting report from 25 November 1999). In April 2001, Csonka spoke at the First Asia Cybercrime Summit (program as .doc) in Hongkong about the upcoming convention.
Finally, on 23 November 2001, this Convention on Cybercrime was opened for signatures in Budapest (Hungary), signed by a good number of European states as well as the USA, Japan and Canada. However, until today, 10 of the 27 member states of the EU have not ratified it (see here).
Now, this convention sets out a list offences that are considered cybercrime, namely
- Illegal access
- Illegal interception
- Data interference
- System interference
- Misuse of devices
- Computer-related forgery
- Computer-related fraud
- Offences related to child pornography
- Offences related to infringements of copyright and related rights
I won’t go into more detail although already this list would offer the space for hundreds of blog posts, including discussions on the many ways with which governments and industry in the past years have used offences from this list (in all kinds of contexts) to prevent free speech, cultural creativity or creative use of new technologies as well as to introduce excessive surveillance measures on citizens or on employees interested in making the misconduct of government agencies public through whistleblowing. Public and private censorship of new online media – not an unknown topic for the Hungarian government these days – is just one of the effects one can witness all across the world.
Peter Csonka, the lawyer from the Council of Europe with whom I have started this article, had already been confronted with this type of criticism during the drafting of the Convention on Cybercrime as he told in an interview with Reuters in 2000 or as mentioned in this article by the German technology news leader Heise.de at the time.
But he continued his way, and in 2006, when he was Head of Unit “Criminal Justice” of the Directorate General JLS, now in the European Commission, he wrote in an article in the academic journal Revue Internationale de Droit Penal 3-4/2006 titled “The council of europe’s convention on cyber-crime and other European initiatives“:
“[W]hile the Commission will not seek a general harmonization of national penal laws in the field of cyber crime, it will consider “targeted legislation”, building on the Framework Decision on attacks against information systems. Aware of new threats that have subsequently appeared, the Commission will closely follow this evolution in view of the importance of continuously assessing the need for additional legislation. […]
Since an effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities often depends on having at least partly harmonised crime definitions, the EU considers it a long-term objective to continue the work to bring Member States’ legislation closer together. Specific discussions on the necessity to harmonize definitions are progressing, and individual proposals will be brought forward when a European need is established. The Commission will in this context have a particular focus on the protection of children, especially in relation to all forms of child sexual abuse material and incitement to violence in text, images and games, and will continue to encourage Member States to allocate adequate resources to these issues.“
Why am I writing about this? Well, the Hungarian Council Presidency has invited us eurobloggers to a second meeting in their premises (see Europasionaria’s and my post on the 1st meeting) tonight and has proposed that we could talk with their expert on cybercrime on the current work of the EU Council is this matter.
Now this made me search for recently published documents of the Council mentioning the term “cybercrime” in the title or in the text. There I could see that there has been a recent meeting of the so-called “Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Group on Cybercrime” of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna.
One of the participants to this meeting for Hungary (list of participants) was a certain Peter Csonka, today Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Coordinator in the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU.
From an outsider view, this looks like somebody is building his career on getting international legislation in the field of cybercrime forward (or making a career because this is an ongoing matter). And I wouldn’t be surprised if the expert we are going to meet tonight would be him.
Quod esset demonstrandum.