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Expert Group to G8 Ministers and Chief Advisors of Science and Technology

G7/8 Official-Level Meetings and Documents

"Misuse of International Data Networks"

Report submitted by the
Expert Group to G8 Ministers and Chief Advisors
of Science and Technology (Carnegie Group)
Rome, October 17, 1997

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Report
    1. Background
    2. Benefits of International Data Networks
    3. Potential Misuse
    4. Finding Solutions
      1. Awareness and Education
      2. Technology
      3. Information and Communications Industry
      4. Legal Measures
    5. Conclusion
    6. Appendix: Meetings and Participants

A. Executive Summary

At the request of Ministers and Chief Advisors of the Carnegie Group, an expert group examined the current situation of implementing Internet and comparable international data networks, with a special view to potential misuse. The expert group presented its report to the Carnegie Group at their meeting at Montebello/Canada on December 5-7, 1997.

The report

Analysing the situation, the report identifies two areas of misuse, i.e.

In order to find appropriate answers to these challenges, the report clusters the potential solutions into four approaches of activities, aiming at developing practical steps for improving the proper use and overall acceptance of new communication technologies and services. These four areas are:

(1) Awareness and Education

(2) Technology

(3) Information and Communications Industry

(4) Legal Measures

The report suggests to develop, as a first step, concise sets of solutions along and across these four areas. Consequently, the expert group submits a number of recommendations. Among these recommendations the expert group estimates that especially the following measures are ready for action:

Beyond these patterns facing the present situation there is a principal uncertainty coming from the ongoing speed of technology development and from the methodology of assessing the impact of using such new technologies. Therefore part of the required actions have to be based on the results of further research so far partly carried out on the national level. In order to make better use of such experience the respective project designs and results should be exchanged among the different partners. Starting from such a point, the next step could be to define collaborative international projects, bearing in mind that the findings of such projects have to be checked against the various conditions of implementation in the countries concerned. This would reduce the time-lag between the appearance and the resolution of new problems.

B. Report

I. Background

Based on an initiative of the German Minister for Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers, the Expert Group on "Misuse of International Data Networks" was established by the Ministers and Advisors of Science of the G7 States, Russia and the European Union (Carnegie Group) in 1996. It consists of legal and technical experts of the member states in the field of international computer networks. The Expert Group's mandate was to evaluate the misuse of international data networks and to suggest recommendations for potential solutions. The expert group held three meetings: in Bonn from 27 to 29 November 1996, in Paris from 26 to 27 June 1997, and in Rome from 16 to 17 October 1997 (see VI). After extensive discussions during those meetings, the Expert Group reached the following conclusions below.

II. Benefits of International Data Networks

The Internet and other comparable international computer networks are positive instruments. The Internet promotes the free flow of information between citizens, brings together people across the world regardless of geographical distance, promotes economic development, stimulates education, and offers universal access to ever wider and richer sources of digital information. At the heart of the Global Information Society, open network technologies, such as the Internet, have enormous potential to foster education and research, facilitate business and enhance democracy on a global scale.

The Internet has considerable potential promise. As a new forum for democracy, it can be an electronic town hall and an electronic court house. As a new space for learning, it is already the most powerful electronic research laboratory available today, as a medium for teleworking, it helps to reconcile working and living. As a forum for innovative new forms of electronic commerce, it is already creating new wealth and new economic activities on a global scale. However, to maximize the beneficial use of international data networks, networks need to be safe, reliable and secure, both in practice and in perception.

III. Potential Misuse

Like any new and powerful technical tool, the Internet can be abused. The positive effects of the Internet as well as other essential individual and social interests can be endangered by the misuse of international computer networks. Such acts can be committed via international telecommunication networks in one country with results in another country. As a first step, the Expert Group identified two areas of possible misuse:


- Illegal access to and penetration of information systems (hacking),

- Manipulations and sabotage of computers and networks

- Espionage and divulgence of secrets

- Infringements of privacy and illegal collection, use, and divulgence of personal data

- Copyright infringements and other intellectual property violations

- Consumer fraud

- Money laundering

- Drug dealing, illegal arms trade, terrorism, illegal gambling and other criminal activities.


- Child pornography and obscenity

- Hate speech

- Defamation

The protection of the integrity of international computer systems against misuse concerns everyone, since computers and telecommunication systems are the backbone of the modern information society: In the business community, the majority of monetary transactions are administered by computers in the form of deposit money. Balance sheets are prepared with computer support. A company's entire production often depends on the functioning of its data processing system. Furthermore, many businesses store their most important company secrets on computers. Modern governments rely on computer technology and databases in a similar way. Sea, air, and space-control systems, medical supervision as well as military defence also depend widely on modern computer technology.

Protection against harmful, and/or illegal content in international data networks is especially important since computers now play an increasing role in the education and leisure of minors. Moreover, it is essential that the new technologies are used in accordance with our democratic community values and, in particular, with fundamental human rights. If technology were to be blamed for abuses, this could substantially lower its acceptance. The challenge is therefore to ensure that the Internet is, remains, and is perceived as a secure place to express opinions, to learn, to work, and to play.

However, any preventive measures and restrictions relating to the Internet should be in accordance with fundamental rights and be balanced against the need to protect the Internet´s tradition of free speech and privacy. Initiatives designed to prevent misuse should not frustrate the potential of open network technologies typified by the Internet, in particular their global, decentralised character, their low barriers to entry, and the free flow of information among all sectors of society. In principle, information on the Internet should be allowed the same free flow as paper-based information. It must also be recognised that, as a result of the free flow of information across borders in international computer networks, international cooperation and coordination is fundamental to combatting misuse. Solutions based on blocking information at national frontiers are neither technically feasible nor socially desirable. Furthermore, it is essential to establish an appropriate balance between solutions based on education, technology, industry self-regulation, and legal or regulatory remedies.

IV. Finding Solutions

The Expert Group on "Misuse of International Data Networks" focused on the development of measures against illegal and harmful content as well as on steps to be taken against other illegal and harmful activities on the Internet. As a first step, the group identified four areas of possible action:

(1) Awareness and Education

(2) Technology

(3) Information and Communications Industry

(4) Legal Measures

During discussion, the group listed a number of possible measures that should be considered in a comprehensive framework. However, the selection and combination of these actions requires difficult policy and value choices. Some initiatives are complementary and some contradict each other. For example, the campaign against child pornography or fraud might be facilitated by implementing reliable measures allowing the identification of the originator (e.g., by prohibiting anonymity). Such measures would, however, raise serious concerns about privacy issues; it is therefore the abuse of anonymity, rather than anonymity itself, which must be addressed. Some of the measures can prevent specific acts, others are weaker and can only limit abuse, or render it more difficult. Some measures might be introduced at a national level, whilst others would require international cooperation. While international uniformity or minimum standards may be desirable in some areas, other matters should be reserved for national legislators, applying the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

It is therefore essential to examine each possible measure and its interrelation with others as a prerequisite for informed national and international discussion. In addition to these discussions among specialists and political leaders, the broadest and most serious public dialogue possible should precede the adoption of any new measures both at the national and international level.

1. Awareness and Education

Since promoting good use is the best way to minimize misuse, awareness campaigns and educational measures should aim at broad multimedia competences. This can be achieved for example by

2. Technology

Technical solutions - which need legal, organizational and social framing as well as future research - should especially promote the development and use of

3. Information and Communications Industry

The information and communications industry plays a key role in the provision of Internet and the national data communication services and content. They can also play an important role in the promotion of proper use and the prevention of misuse of these services. Voluntary measures by industry could, for example,

4. Legal Measures

With respect to legal measures and their interrelation with technical and other solutions, it is especially essential to

V. Conclusion

The findings and recommendations of this Expert Group are laid out in this report and highlighted in the Executive Summary. In conducting its analysis, the Expert Group drew upon, and may contribute to, the work of other international bodies, such as the European Union, Council of Europe, OECD, UN, WIPO and P8.

The Expert Group is well aware that the scope of the suggested measures is broad and will require complementary efforts by many organizations. Achieving the desired results would require cooperation between governments and the private sector, among government departments and administrations, and between countries. The work initiated by the Carnegie Group is one step in that direction.

VI. Appendix


Bonn, 27 - 29 November 1996Chairman: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Sieber
Paris, 26 - 27 June 1997Chairman: Daniel Confland
Rome, 16 - 17 October 1997Chairman: Dottore Carlo Sarzana Di Sant'Ippolito

Responsible for the coordination and final editing of the report:

Prof. Dr. Sieber, Prof. Dr. Pfitzmann

Participants (in alphabetical order)


European Commission






United Kingdom