A set of guidelines to help European ISPs and law enforcement agencies cooperate on cybercrime investigations are close to being complete.
The guidelines are aimed at satisfying law enforcement's need to quickly obtain data needed for investigations while also not unduly burdening ISPs (Internet service providers) or threatening subscribers' right to privacy, said Alexander Seger, head of the economic crime division for the Council of Europe.
Industry and government representatives are meeting Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, and hope to have a final draft ready by the conference's end on Wednesday.
The guidelines will be voluntary for ISPs and law enforcement, and intended to be a set of best practices to supplement a particular country's existing laws against cybercrime. ISPs and police in any country will be encouraged to use the guidelines.
ISPs often have critical information needed for cybercrime investigations, but there are a range of concerns that come when the law comes knocking.
"The problem that many service providers and law enforcement encounter is that such cooperation is not very well structured," Seger said. "Even within one country, different approaches are used."
The idea is to have a more reasonable set of expectations on both sides, in accordance with local law. One of the recommendations calls for regular training for both sides in order to "promote a culture of cooperation rather than confrontation," according to a draft.
Also, law enforcement should also take into account the drain on the ISPs resources that come with complicated requests.
The guidelines will not require service providers to monitor the content their users are accessing, Seger said. "They certainly are not doing that," he said. "The issue is how to find the right balance. While we need effective cooperation, we also need to make sure the right of users and citizens are protected."
Music and movie industry trade groups in the US and Europe are pushing for legislation that would require ISPs to monitor the content on their networks and shut off internet access to those sharing files under copyright without permission. The UK and France are considering legislation, but activists counter that the measures would invade people's privacy.