Law Enforcement Given Invasive Access To Internet User Information

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In May 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a draft treaty that would give law enforcement officials broad, intrusive powers to access user information while performing criminal cross-border investigations. The draft protocol of PACE’s Cybercrimes Prevention Committee would also grant law enforcement agencies unrestricted access to subscribers’ data. As Karen Gullo and Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reported in August 2021, the EFF joined a number of civil society organizations to recommend “comprehensive steps to strengthen human rights protections in the new cross border surveillance draft treaty” under review by PACE.  These recommendations, Gullo and Rodriquez wrote, aimed to make certain that the draft treaty, which would include “a robust baseline to safeguard privacy and data protection.”

Use of subscribers’ data—including, for example, a person’s IP address and telephone number—is a special concern because police often use such information “to uncover people’s identities and link them to specific online activities that reveal details of their private lives,” Gullo and Rodrigquez reported. The draft treaty’s “dismissive characterization” of how subscriber data might be used “directly conflicts with judicial precedent, particularly when considering the Protocol’s broad definition of subscriber information,” according to their EFF article.

The EFF suggests that in order to increase the privacy of all internet users, PACE needs to “align the draft explanatory text’s description of subscriber data with judicial opinions across the world.” Gullo and Rodriguez also emphasize the threats that arise from mandating direct cooperation between service providers and foreign law enforcement agencies.

Source: Karen Gullo and Katitza Rodriguez, “EFF to Council of Europe: Flawed Cross Border Police Surveillance Treaty Needs Fixing-Here Are Our Recommendations to Strengthen Privacy and Data Protections Across the World,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 7, 2021.

Student Researcher: Connell Poor (Saint Michael’s College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Rob Williams (Saint Michael’s College)