Bull in a china shop approach to fighting bane of cyber crime

10 December 2015 - 02:12 By The Times Editorial

As it did with the infamous ''Secrecy Bill'', which criminalises journalists and whistle-blowers for possessing and disseminating state information, the government has adopted a hopelessly broad and overzealous approach in its attempt to combat the growing scourge of cyber crime. The problem is extremely serious: according to the Department of Justice, cyber crimes in their various guises cost this country between R1-billion and R5-billion a year.But the government's response, the Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, which is likely to be tabled in parliament soon, after only the most cursory consultation, is so wide-ranging and over-the-top that it is almost certainly unconstitutional.The draft bill proposes imposing heavy police and intelligence agency control over the internet, to the extent of allowing the state security minister to declare certain areas and topics off limits - creating what critics say amounts to virtual ''national key points''.Critically, if passed in its current form, the bill would authorise the police and state security agents to seize computers, and database and network files, without a court-issued warrant.Under current security laws, wire-taps and other interceptions of electronic communications must be authorised by a judge.Information privacy activists have warned that the scope of the bill is so vast that it interferes with the right of freedom of expression and association, limits digital rights and contains insufficient safeguards.As the Right2Know Campaign put it, the bill will turn the internet into ''a fortress'', with the ''worst parts of the Secrecy Bill ... copied and pasted into this draft''.The government, companies and the public need adequate protection from cyber criminals but the authorities would do well not to rush the bill through parliament in its current form.Proper consultation and a thorough study of international best practice would result in a more effective and precise legal instrument...

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