EFF and international allies Access Now, Article 19, Epicenter, and Global Partners Digital are in Vienna this week and next for the fifth round of negotiations on the proposed UN Cybercrime Treaty, along with the over 100 representatives of Member States hashing out a new draft text.

While we have not yet been allowed to speak on the floor—or even sit in the same room as delegates—that has not stopped us from speaking out for users about the lack of human rights protections, the criminalization of online speech, the fostering of greater surveillance powers, and other dangers posed by the treaty in its current form.

At a livestreamed briefing yesterday in Vienna, we provided a reality check on how the talks have moved in troubling directions and challenged negotiators to seize this rare opportunity—negotiating a UN Treaty only happens every other decade—to draft a cybercrime treaty that does not undermine, but actually protects,  privacy and free expression.

You can view the media briefing here:

Briefing highlights:

Katitza Rodriguez, Policy Director for Global Privacy, EFF

One big issue we're facing is that there isn't an effective global system in place to make sure human rights are enforced. Not many governments want to limit their own power to spy and track people closely. Because of this, the Convention might end up legitimizing intrusive surveillance power that invades people's private lives and infringe upon their rights.  

Barbora Bukovská, Senior Director for Law and Policy, ARTICLE 19

We are really concerned that many provisions of this treaty restrict freedom of expression. States must not lose sight of the fact that content offenses, if coupled with surveillance powers and other restrictions, will create international carte blanche for those who want to use use this tool to restrict freedom of expression globally.

Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Global Cybersecurity Lead, Access Now

Our view is simple. Any UN cybercrime treaty should make us more cyber secure, it should not make us less cyber secure. A key part of any such international legal framework should look at the human beings involved in cyber security, namely security researchers, digital security trainers, as well as journalists who investigate vulnerabilities and gaps in computer systems. Unfortunately, our view is that the present text of the UN Cybersecurity Treaty process, unless drastically improved, would in fact make us less cyber secure.

Failing to provide legal protection for security researchers—whether in the form of heightened intent requirements for core cyber-dependent crimes (particularly unauthorized access) or a standalone, legitimate security research "safe harbour" mandate—would be a mistake that the global information security community can ill afford.

Tanja Fachathaler, Policy Advisor, Epicenter.works

(The UN Convention) aims to set global standards to fight cybercrime but it could also, if it were to fail, set a global standard for how we all lose our privacy. We urgently need strong safeguards and these unfortunately so far are not in place. The way many provisions at the moment are drafted is very broad, and it does not rule out the use of government hacking.

We advocate for an explicit requirement to be added that any investigative powers must be conducted in ways not to compromise  the security of digital communications and services. 

Ellie McDonald, Global Engagement and Advocacy Lead, Global Partners Digital

The reason that many countries say that they are engaging in this process is precisely because they want to strenghthen cooperation on international cybercrime. At the same time they are saying this, we are hearing certain countries reject the inclusion of practical and robust safeguards which are derived from their existing human rights law obligations. We see that the safeguards, rather than being an obstacle to such cooperation, should really be seen as enabling. Not having them would introduce uncertainty, and that would hinder cooperation, the very thing that certain states say they desire by virtue of the treaty, and also cause risk to human rights, most importantly.