Australia signs up to Europe Convention on Cybercrime

Australia has become the 39th country to sign as a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime meaning that local law enforcement agencies will be able to obtain data about cybercrime from international partner agencies.

According to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, signing up to the Convention will help Australia to combat offences relating to forgery, fraud, child pornography and copy right infringement.

“The Internet makes it easy for criminals to operate from abroad, especially from those countries where regulations and enforcement arrangements are weaker,” he said in a statement.

“The Convention will also ensure vital evidence is not lost before a mutual assistance request can be completed.”

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According to Dreyfus, joining the Convention indicates that Australian legislation is consistent with international best practice. For example, state and territory agencies will be able to help countries in the Asia Pacific region build up capacity to address cybercrime.

He added that Australia’s investigative agencies will be able to use new powers contained in the lt;igt;Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Act 2012lt;/igt; to work with cybercrime investigators around the globe.

The Act amended certain Commonwealth cybercrime offences and enabled domestic agencies to access and share information relating to international investigations.

It also created new privacy protections, safeguards and reporting requirements for the exercise of new and existing powers.

“A warrant is always required to access the content of a communication whether the information is in Australia, or accessed from overseas under the Cybercrime Convention,” Dreyfus said.

“The Cybercrime Act and the Cybercrime Convention do not impact in any way on the need to have a warrant to access content from a telephone call, SMS or e-mail.”

At the time the Act was passed in August 2012, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam raised concerns about both the Act and Australia joining the Europe Convention.

According to Ludlam, it would open the door to Australian’s private data being shared with agencies overseas.

"This proposed law goes well beyond the already controversial European convention on which it is based, and no explanation has been provided as to why,” he said.

“The European Convention doesn't require ongoing collection and retention of communications, but the Australian Act does. It also leaves the door open for Australia to assist in prosecutions which could lead to the death penalty overseas.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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