Stiffer e-data rules eyed
Internet service providers would be obligated to preserve e-mail and other information up to 90 days without subscribers' knowledge under tighter regulations governing electronic data, Justice Ministry sources said.
Creating a computer virus or providing it to others, even if it has caused no damage, would be made punishable by up to three years in prison, and sending obscene pictures or storing them for sale could also constitute a crime under the proposed regulations.
The proposals, part of steps necessary for Japan to join the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, will be submitted to the Legislative Council, an advisory panel to the justice minister, on March 24.
Ministry officials said they expect bills will be introduced to revise the criminal procedure law and other related laws at an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.
The officials added they hope the convention will be ratified at the same session.
The new measures would cover any criminal act involving the use of computers-from virus attacks and computer-related fraud to e-mail communications used to plan acts of terrorism.
Under the new measures, authorities would be able to ask Internet service providers, businesses and others that administer servers for computer networks to retain data for up to 90 days when they suspect a crime has taken place.
To seize data, authorities would be required to obtain a court order.
While obliged to cooperate, Internet service providers that do not would not be liable to punishment.
The current law allows authorities to only seize computers. The proposed steps would allow them to seize data copied to CD-ROMs.
The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, the first international treaty on computer crime, was adopted in November 2001.
It is open to nonmembers of the Council of Europe and has been signed by 35 nations, including Japan, but ratified by only two.
The convention, which aims to promote international cooperation in combating cybercrime, requires members to define computer crimes and prepare criminal procedures necessary for prosecution under domestic laws.
There have been calls for caution on ratifying the convention in Japan, with critics saying some provisions could infringe on freedom of expression or secrecy of communication as guaranteed under the Constitution.
But ministry officials want to make legal preparations ``to the maximum extent currently possible'' out of fear a delay in establishing Internet crime countermeasures could turn Japan into a hotbed of cybercrime, the sources said.
But the ministry tried to keep revisions to the essentials out of concern for possible violations of individuals' constitutional rights.
As a result, expansion of real-time monitoring of e-mail for additional crimes was dropped and restrictions on child pornography in animated form or that use composite pictures were excluded.
But ratification of the convention likely will still face opposition since, at the request of foreign investigative authorities, Internet service providers could be obliged to save data in relation to acts not considered criminal in Japan.
Critics are also angry servers could be put under surveillance without subscribers' knowledge.(IHT/Asahi: March 17,2003)
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