The Federal Government has announced plans to sign an international treaty designed to facilitate the identification, extradition and conviction of cybercriminals around the world.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith yesterday said Australia would accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
The Convention, which was established in 2004, calls for procedures that allow authorities to force service providers to surrender information about subscribers, and intercept and record traffic.
Parties to the Convention also agree to facilitate extradition of criminals sentenced to at least one year imprisonment and collection of data in another country.
It encompasses illegal interception and system interference, forgery, fraud, child pornography, and "offences related to the infringement of copyright and other related rights," according to a statement from the Minister.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's department told iTnews that Australia had been assessing the possible benefits and requirements of acceding to the convention for some time.
While Australia took "a strong view" of cybercrime activities, some legislative amendments were still required before it could sign the treaty.
The spokesperson did not disclose a timeframe for the introduction of amendments and signing of the treaty.
"In order for Australia to sign the treaty Australia must make legislative changes to our domestic law to meet the requirements of the Convention," he said.
"This has been happening on an ongoing basis in consultation with relevant stakeholders, for instance, the Commonwealth has updated cybercrime offences in the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)."
Currently, more than 40 nations are party to the treaty, including the U.S., Canada, Japan and South Africa.
This is despite initial opposition from privacy and civil rights advocacy groups including the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC), of which Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) was a founding member.
EFA opposed a draft treaty that was released to the public in 2000. In July 2001, EFA spokesperson Greg Taylor said the treaty was "fundamentally imbalanced" and failed to address privacy rights while focussing almost completely on law enforcement demands.
"It includes very detailed and sweeping powers of computer search and seizure and government surveillance of voice, email and data communications, but no correspondingly detailed standards to protect privacy and limit government use of such powers," it wrote.
"This is despite the fact that privacy is the major concern of Internet users worldwide."
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and EFA have been approached for comment.