Digital Civil Rights in Europe

Article wrote by Meryem Marzouki, EDRI-member IRIS for EDRi-gram 6.7

The 9th meeting of the Council of Europe (CoE) group of specialists on Human Rights in the Information Society (MC-S-IS) was held in Strasbourg from 31 March to 2 April 2008. At the same time, on 1-2 April, another division of the CoE was holding in a building across the street its 2008 Octopus conference on cooperation against cybercrime. This schedule overlapping is not the only sign that CoE’s left hand seems to ignore what its right hand is doing: different divisions are also addressing same issues, though from different points of view and with different results.

It happened this time with the guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). While the Octopus conference was discussing and then adopting its ‘Guidelines for the cooperation between law enforcement and Internet service providers against cybercrime’, the MC-S-IS group was reviewing and finalising its ‘Practical guidelines for Internet service providers with regard to key human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Information Society’. While EuroISPA (the European association of ISPs) vice-president Michael Rotert was “pushing hard”, according to press reports, to have ISPs concerns taken into account in the Octopus conference guidelines, EuroISPA president Kurt Einzinger was sitting next to EDRI representative at MC-S-IS meeting, with both organizations welcoming MC-S-IS guidelines upholding digital rights and taking into account ISPs concerns. EDRI suggested some additional provisions on ISPs transparency and accountability with regards to their subscribers, especially with regards to content “notice and take down” procedure and network neutrality issues. Once adopted, the MC-S-IS guidelines will soon be submitted to the CDMC and hopefully later adopted by the Committee of Ministers. The status of the Octopus conference guidelines remains unclear at this step.

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