19th Mar 2019

EU to set up anti-cybercrime body

EU ministers on Monday proposed to set up a cybercrime centre as part of a longer term strategy to cope with internet scams, fraud and child pornography.

Foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg asked the European Commission to draw up a feasibility study looking at the creation of a body that would assess trends in cybercrime all across the EU and facilitate cross-border information sharing among various national investigators dealing with such cases.

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  • The EU is divided on how to deal with child pornography sites (Photo: Flickr)

Despite increased cross-border investigations, criminals are still in a safe haven due to the lack of harmonisation among the 27 different legal systems in the EU, making it easy for internet fraudsters to set up bogus companies in one member state and scam victims in other countries.

The centre would try to tackle these issues by evaluating the preventive and investigative measures carried out in member states and by training police, judges and prosecutors who specialise in this field.

It could be located within the bloc's police agency, Europol, based in the Hague, which has already developed a "European cybercrime platform." But the efficiency of this platform is somewhat doubtful, as ministers ask for "consolidation" and "revision" of its functions, "in order to facilitate the collection, exchange and analysis of information."

From a legal point of view, EU states have still to ratify the Convention on Cybercrime adopted in 2001 by the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based human rights organisation, and adopt a common position on practical issues such as blocking IP addresses and revocation of domain names.

Governments' efforts to collect more data about cyber-criminals and block access to child pornography sites are already provoking opposition from civil liberties groups wary of increased intrusion into people's private lives.

Member states are also not all on the same page on such measures. While France and Denmark are also looking at such internet blockages, Germany's justice minister Sabine Schnarrenberger openly criticised the European Commission's proposal.

"I expect a broad debate in the upcoming discussions in which I shall be representing the principle 'removing [child porn sites] instead of blocking' and lobbying for as broad support as possible in the Council and in the European Parliament," the minister told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

Within the commission itself, views diverge over how to deal with child pornography sites. Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom defends the blocking tactic, while justice commissioner Viviane Reding is against it.

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