Problems of security will undoubtedly be at the center of debates in the forthcoming elections in France. But what about security on the Internet? A number of political initiatives have recently been launched to counter the phenomenon of cybercrime:
- On 9 November 2001, the French government launched a new web site where people can signal and denounce pedophile web sites .
- On 8 November 2001, the 43 member countries of the Council of Europe adopted the first international convention on cybercrime .
- On 31 October 2001, the law on everyday security (LSQ) was finally adopted by the French parliament, introducing a number of obligations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) intended to combat cyberterrorism.
Together, these measures open the way to a juridical and legal regulation of the network of networks, that until now had seemed to be abandoned to the sole laws of the market. They represent an important step forward that appears to signify a new collective awareness. Nevertheless, the consequences of these initiatives can make them superfluous and sometimes even dangerous:
- The initiative in the fight against pedophilia is interesting because it is based on the civic responsibility of Internet users. However, its application is very limited in time and space. In particular, as the content of Web pages is extremely volatile, a notification at a precise moment in time risks losing all legal value if the incriminating photos are removed from the server before the competent administration visualizes them. More troubling, what powers of intervention do national police forces truly have concerning photos that are published on anonymous servers in distant countries?
- Concerning the international Convention on Cybercrime, European countries did their utmost to include an article aimed at combating Web sites with xenophobic or racist content. But there were confronted with the refusal of the United States, invoking the first article of their Constitution.
- As for the measures concerning cryptography and the control of ISP connection files, they raise the problem of individual liberties and the respect of anonymity. The current projects risk penalizing above all the ordinary Internet user, without reaching the real cybercriminals who are often one step ahead in terms of ingenuity and technological innovation.
First published in Les Echos on 11 February 2002. Article reproduced with the authorís consent.