Yahoo calls for 'effective' cybercrime laws

The Internet giant wants a combination of legislation and self regulation of the Internet to combat cybercrime. Interpol agrees
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Yahoo on Thursday called for "effective" legislation combined with industry self regulation, to deal with online fraud, child abuse, and other cybercrime.

The Internet services giant called on policy makers to concentrate on defining illegal use of technology, rather than how an action breaks the law.

"Effective policy defines what is legal and what is illegal. If legislation is concerned with how an action is illegal it creates rigidity, and means the legislation won't keep up with the technology," Robin Pembrooke, director of product operations for Yahoo Europe told ZDNet UK.

"The lack of global legislation adds to the complexity of the situation. It's not realistic to have global legislation, but we do need international consistency," Pembrooke said. "One example is 'child abuse' content, which has a different definition in the US than in the UK."

Pembrooke advocated a combination of legislation and self regulation of Internet businesses in order to combat cybercrime.

"There are some really good examples of where the industry has come together. The Internet Watch Foundation is funded by industry, and without legislation this approach has achieved fantastic things in the last five years," said Pembrooke.

An Interpol representative agreed that over-legislation would not solve international cybercrime problems, but called for a global legislative framework to make international evidence transfer easier and international response times quicker.

"[Pembrooke] is completely right, we shouldn't over-legislate" said Bernhard Otupal, crime intelligence officer at the Financial and High Tech Crime Sub-Directorate of Interpol. "In the EU there are so many different regulations covering different technologies. What we need is real international legislation, and a global legislative framework."

"There must be a self regulatory process for the big players, with internal rules, as that is efficient. However, self regulation is not enough — you need both legislation and self regulation," Otupal told ZDNet UK.

Yahoo said that over-legislation is incompatible with the needs of its customers, which needed to be balanced with the needs of governments.

"We find users want freedom of expression, privacy, and ease of use. We have to balance that with the needs of governments looking for increasing access to data," said Pembrooke.

Last year Yahoo was accused of passing data to the Chinese government which led to the arrest and imprisonment of two Chinese Internet users, including a journalist who was sentenced to ten years in prison.

"We feel horrible about the political arrests of Internet users in China, but we believe it's better to be there and cooperate with the authorities than not be there." said Pembrooke.

"By cooperating with the authorities we can improve people's lives. By giving them access to the Internet, this raises awareness in differences in government approaches, and increase forces for change," Pembrooke said.

"Our challenge is we have to work inside the laws of the countries we operate in," Pembrooke added.

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