The United Nations is currently negotiating a major Cybercrime Convention that has the potential to substantively reshape international criminal law and bolster cross-border police surveillance powers to access and share users’ data, implicating the human rights of billions of people worldwide. To coordinate the new Convention, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 74/247 in December 2019 and established the Ad Hoc intergovernmental committee to “Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purpose.”
The Ad Hoc Committee held its first negotiating session on February 28th, 2022, aiming to finalize the text by early 2024 amidst contentious negotiations among Members States’ disagreement about the broad scope of the Treaty. The proposed Convention will likely deal with several topics such as substantive cybercrime provisions, international cooperation, access to potential digital evidence by law enforcement authorities, including across borders, as well as human rights and procedural safeguards. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through the Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch, Division for Treaty Affairs, serves as Secretariat for the Ad Hoc Committee.
Cybercrime is not a new phenomenon, and we have already witnessed many examples of anti-cybercrime laws being used to persecute, chill human rights, and bring spurious and disproportionate charges against researchers, activists, and whistleblowers. The stakes are high, so the treaty's scope must be narrow, and human rights safeguards must be a priority.
EFF is a registered NGO actively fighting to protect human rights online, attending and speaking in meetings via submissions, oral statements, and joint coalition letters.