European Justice and Home Affairs Council considers preventive measures against Echelon

Technical working group asked to look into measures to prevent abuse of interception of telecommunications

The European Council on Justice and Home Affairs discussed yesterday during lunch Echelon, the Anglo-American spying network that according to reports of the European Parliament is being used to intercept sensitive economical and political communication.

Although the European ministers of Justice said hard proof is failing for the accusations, they are worried about the possible misuse of electronic spionage. ' While telecommunication interception may be an important tool in combatting crime or for the defence of national security, in no case may it be used to gain commercial advantage,' according to the Council.

The ministers decided to install a technical working group, which has to investigate if 'technical measures', like strong encryption, are possible to prevent the misuse of intercepted material. The Council hailed the initiative of the European Commission to bring forward appropriate measures for 'achieving a more secure information society'. Further, it instructed Council working parties to encourage 'preventive measures which may protect against the abuse of new technologies.'

Dutch minister of Justice Benk Korthals said to the Dutch press there was no real proof of spying, but it was better to take preventive measures. He asked for further studies on the possibility to make international rules regarding the interception of telecommunications. Also, he warned for the possibility organised crime would get the technical possibilities to intercept satellite communications.

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