EU to set up pan-European cyber crime forum

The European Commission wants to establish a forum on cyber crime to enhance cooperation across borders and discuss sensitivities involved with the issue, Justice and Home Affairs commissioner Antonio Vitorino said this week.

          The European Commission wants to establish a forum on cyber crime to enhance cooperation across borders and discuss sensitivities involved with the issue, Justice and Home Affairs commissioner Antonio Vitorino said this week.

          Vitorino says the forum would also be a platform for sharing information between government bodies, the industry and consumer groups. Making laws to fight crime on the internet means finding a balance between three key interests; law enforcement, privacy and the industry, Vitorino says.

          Vitorino was speaking at a discussion meeting on cyber crime in Brussels organised by the European Parliamentarians Internet Group.

          With the creation of a cyber crime forum -- to be established "as soon as possible" -- the commission follows in the footsteps of several of its member states, the G8 and the US.

          John Fennell, representing the UK Home Office and a member of the group drafting the Council of Europe convention on cyber crime, applauds the initiative. "I'm proud to say the European forum will be based on the UK example. You can't crack cyber crime from a (purely) law enforcement angle."

          Mark Richard, representing the US Department of Justice and part of the discussion meeting, agrees. "We are dealing with law enforcement that lacks the expertise and resources to fight crime in cyber space, we need the direction and insights of the industry," Richard says.

          Vitorino acknowledges the shortcomings of the authorities. "We are unprepared from a technological point of view. Member states have trouble competing in the marketplace to get expertise," Vitorino says, referring to the tight job market.

          "With the forum we are leaning on the concept of new government. We need strong partnerships. Don't ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," Vitorino says, borrowing a phrase made famous by former US President John F Kennedy to call on Europeans for help ridding cyberspace of crime.

          At times Vitorino seems almost to plead with citizens and the industry to create an online equivalent of neighbourhood watches. "We can't give all responsibility to the police, you (the internet user) are also responsible for keeping a safe virtual environment on the 'net," he says.

          The commissioner adds that "apart from the vital role for the industry, there is a need to recognise that law enforcement needs could put a burden on the industry." Vitorino says he strives to keep the burden "to a minimum." The intrusion of individuals' privacy, as well as that of companies, should be limited to where it is absolutely necessary, Vitorino says.

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