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24 November 2008, 16:01

Europol to establish a centre to fight cyber crime

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At their council session in Brussels on Friday, EU home affairs ministers have approved establishing an EU-wide platform for collecting information on cyber crime and child pornography at Europol. In their conclusion, government representatives called uponPDF the European police authority to focus in particular on combining and analysing data in member states’ existing or planned internet crime reporting centres. The ministers envision the second step as an exchange of incoming reports between the national platforms. Futhermore, the police office in The Hague will set up a website to explain typical forms of internet crime to web surfers, list walk-in centres, publish statistics on collected information, and keep the European Council up to date the centre’s activities.

The home affairs ministers called upon the European Commission to provide financial support to national and international alarm centres.Justice Commissioner Jaques Barrot reacted promptly, promising an initial €300,000 for the planned Europol platform. He also wants to provide money for national reporting offices. Such facilities already exist in many member states. In Germany, the German ISP, Internet Association eco and the Institution for Voluntary Self-Monitoring of the Internet already offer a hotline for reporting illegal content under the auspices of the "Germany: Secure on the Net" initiative, in which Microsoft is the driving force. According to the European commission, more than half of all internet crime is related to child pornography.

French home affairs minister Michele Alliot-Marie added that the EU-wide alarm centre will make it more difficult for providers of such content to move from servers in one member state to servers in another.

Following the expansion of its mandate last year, the European police office is in principle already responsible for fighting cyber crime and, in the framework of the Check the Web project, combing the web in search of terrorist activity. Also, the European Parliament approved €55M of funding last week to continue the Safer Internet action plan, which also involves establishing national illegal content reporting centres.

On the sidelines of the council session, home affairs ministers from Germany, Belgium, France and Luxembourg signed an agreementPDF to increase cross-border cooperation between their police and customs officials. They agreed to set up a centre in Luxembourg for collection, analysis, and exchange of information necessary to fulfil the cooperation agreement. There was still no resolution of the dispute over passenger monitoring using Passenger Name Records (PNR); the council wants to give the commission a chance to address the issue. On Friday afternoon, following the home affairs ministers' session, EU justice ministers agreed on technical rules for the European Criminal Records Information SystemPDF (ECRIS), which privacy advocates are regarding distrustfully. One of the key benefits of the new rules will be to simplify machine translation of electronic reports.

(Stefan Krempl)


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