Internet business group calls for delay in cybercrime treaty

BERLIN -- The Global Internet Project (GIP), a U.S.-based business group that's trying to head off government regulation of the Internet, yesterday called for more dialogue on a proposed international treaty on cybercrime issues.

At a press conference held here during a two-day policy workshop sponsored by the GIP, members of the group urged the Council of Europe to delay its self-imposed deadline of December for completing work on the cybercrime treaty. The Council, which has 41 member countries, released a draft of the treaty last month, and it's widely expected that the U.S. and other nations outside of Europe also will adopt the final version.

But John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology at IBM and the GIP's chairman, claimed that the proposed treaty could actually hamper efforts to stop cybercrime and track down people who launch computer-related attacks. "It's an issue where if we move too quickly to ban the tools used by hackers, we may also ban the tools used by investigators," Patrick said.

The Arlington, Va.-based GIP agrees in general with the aims of the proposed international treaty, said member Tom Evslin, chairman and CEO of Internet-telephony provider ITXC Corp. in Princeton, N.J. But more work is needed to ensure that the agreement doesn't stifle technical innovation, Evslin added.

For example, he and other GIP members argued, the draft treaty would impose heavy record-keeping burdens on Internet service providers and make them liable for the actions of companies or individuals who use their networks.

According to the GIP, the proposed treaty would empower law enforcement authorities to demand "subscriber information under [a] service provider's possession or control." Internet service providers also could be compelled to "collect or record or cooperate and assist the competent authorities in the collection or recording of content data ... transmitted by means of a computer system," the GIP said.

That provision is "an example that demonstrates to us the need for more dialogue" before the treaty is finalized, Evslin said. "A rush to adopt those regulations probably will be counterproductive," he added.

On its Web site, the GIP says it isn't a formal lobbying organization. The group's primary goal is to promote industry self-regulation on Internet policy issues in order to minimize the need for government intervention. The GIP was founded by James Clark, the former chairman of Netscape Communications Corp., and is managed by the Information Technology Association of America, which also is based in Arlington.

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