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Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Palermo Statement 

Cyber-Rights vs Cyber-Crimes

For "the E-media: an avenue for communication or cyber-crime?" United Nations Symposium for the Media on the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, 
13 December 2000, Palermo, Italy

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) (http://www.cyber-rights.org), is a non profit organisation established to protect the interests of all honest, law abiding Internet users with the aim of promoting free speech and privacy on the Internet. It was founded in 1997 and has been actively involved with the Internet policy making process of the UK government, the European Union, Council of Europe, OECD, and the United Nations.

The Internet as an empowering tool
The Internet is a social, cultural, commercial, educational and entertainment global communications system the legitimate purpose of which is to benefit and empower online users, lowering the barriers to the creation and the distribution of expressions throughout the world. Governments, the Internet industry and the online users have each an important role to play in building and keeping open, consistent with this purpose, global communications networks.

A Proportionate and Effective Response?
We recognise and support the need to counter criminal use of the Internet. Moreover, we also recognise that in countering such use it may sometimes be necessary to infringe the rights of honest Internet users in order to secure the prosecution and conviction of guilty parties.

But in considering such action, we believe that it is necessary to apply the following tests to any proposals that are made:

1) That they provide clear net benefit for society. That is, the benefits are clear and are achievable by the measures proposed, with a detrimental impact on the rights of honest citizens that is as small as possible and one that is widely accepted as tolerable in the light of the gains secured.

2) That the measures proposed discriminate effectively between criminals and honest, law abiding citizens. Therefore, they should be balanced and should not, in an impetuous desire to counter crime, expose all honest Internet users to such risks as government access to encryption keys.

3) That of all the options available they are the best in the sense that they are the most effective in countering criminals while having the least impact on honest citizens and the lowest costs for taxpayers and businesses.

4) They should be based on clearly defined policy objectives which citizens understand and which command widespread public support.

5) They should be enforceable, transparent, and accountable.

Respect for Human Rights
Privacy and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights recognised in all major international and regional agreements and treaties:

These important international documents should be taken into account while developing policies against cyber-crimes by governments, regional, and international organisations. Any co-ordinated policy initiative at a supranational level (e.g. the European Union or within the Council of Europe in relation to the adoption of the draft Convention on Cyber-crime), or at an international level (e.g. within the OECD, or within G8) should also offer the best protection for individual rights and liberties.

Openness and Transparency in the Policy Making Process
Transparency, openness and accountability are important features of a healthy society. We call for openness, and transparency in relation to cyber-crime policy making process by governments, regional, and international organisations. So far, we have not witnessed openness, and transparency in the drafting of the Council of Europe Cyber-Crime Convention, and in relation to G8 initiatives to fight cyber-crimes.

International forums that discuss policy issues related to cyber-crimes do not include the representatives of NGOs and public interests groups. It is important to consult all interested parties, and such organisations should be included within the policy making process.

Need for accountability in the Global Interception of Communications
Secret surveillance, and interception of all forms of communications including Internet communications cannot be acceptable in democratic societies. By welcoming the decision of the European Parliament to set up a temporary committee to verify the existence of the communications interception system known as ECHELON to assess the compatibility of such a system with Community law, we call for accountability in the global interception of communications. Privacy is not an absolute right, and no one is against the idea of lawful interception of communications. However, we are particularly concerned about the lack of democratic oversight on data being intercepted, stored and processed with systems like ECHELON.

Privacy, Data protection, and Security on the Internet should be encouraged
We call on the member countries of the United Nations to encourage privacy of communications, data protection, and security on the Internet. In developing encryption policies, governments and international organisations should avoid the inclusion of provisions for government access to encryption keys ("GAK") as such provisions could seriously undermine the security of computers and computer data, e-commerce and the integrity of service providers, as well as causing huge potential costs in global key revocation and change. It could also infringe important human rights.

Resist censorship of the Internet
New media historically face suspicion and are liable to excessive regulation as it sparks fears as to the potential detrimental effects it may have on society. Throughout history, governments have overreacted to all forms of communications technologies including the printing press, the telegraph, telephone, post, cinema, radio, television, satellite, and video. Now, the Internet is receiving the same kind of treatment with various attempts to censor its content. However, as the European Court of Human Rights stated "... freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society, one of the basic conditions for its progress," and censorship should be resisted at all costs.

Governments should recognise the value of the global communications networks both at an economic and cultural level and for the benefit of individual freedom and collective democracy. They should co-operate to respect fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and privacy and should encourage rather than limit the peoplesí usage of the Internet through excessive regulation.

Written by Mr. Yaman Akdeniz,
Director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK),
http://www.cyber-rights.org and http://www.cyber-rights.net 
Phone: 0498 865116
Fax: 07092 199011
Postal Address: Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT.

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