Democracy and Technology Blog

Ratify the Cybercrime Convention

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Ratify the Cybercrime Convention

It is already against the law in the U.S. to interfere with someone else’s computer or commit traditional crimes with the aid of a computer, however many countires have gaps in their criminal laws governing computer-related crimes and have become havens for cyber-criminals. Another problem is that electronic evidence of crime is difficult for law enforcers to locate and secure when it crosses borders. A treaty is awaiting final Senate approval that would fully criminalize computer-related offenses in other countries and require each country to have the power to quickly preserve and disclose stored computer data, compel the production of electronic evidence by ISPs, to search and seize computers and data, and to collect traffic data and content in real time. These evidence-gathering and surveillance powers are already provided for under U.S. law.
The Convention on Cybercrime has been criticized on the ground that it could allow a foreign country to collect evidence or eavesdrop in the U.S. — on who knows what? — via “mutual assistance.” But the evidence-gathering and surveillance powers are subject to conditions and safeguards under domestic law that protect civil liberties, such as the First Amendment.
The Senate should ratify the treaty, which will promote an international minimum baseline in computer-related criminal offenses and law enforcement tools.