Opstelten intends to strengthen investigations on the internet

Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice intends to strengthen the investigative powers of the police and the Public Prosecution Service on the internet. He writes this today in a letter to the Lower House.

A more effective approach to cyber crime requires a closer look at possible expansions of powers. Based on recent experiences of the police and the Public Prosecution Service, it is clear that the current powers for fighting cyber crime are no longer up to date. The powers for fighting cyber crime have to be shaped in such a way that these are manageable and effective in the current digital world. The number of cyber crimes is increasing and the capacity, knowledge and experience within the criminal justice chain is not keeping up. Criminal activities on the internet are moreover harder to trace, because it is relatively simple for criminals to cover digital tracks. Improvement is clearly necessary in order to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of cyber crime.

The new powers do need to be surrounded by strict guarantees. For example, remotely hacking into a computer will require the advance authorisation of the examining judge. In addition, it will only be possible to exercise the power if there is a suspicion of criminal offences of a certain seriousness, for example crimes that are liable to pre-trial detention or that are liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of four years or more. All investigative activities will also have to be logged and stored, so that these can always be consulted and checked after the fact. 

The police and the Public Prosecution Service conclude that in a practical sense they now need an expansion of the legal options for action. The law therefore needs to be updated. 

An inventory of new investigative powers under criminal law on the internet:  

  • Remotely searching data that are accessible from a computer, irrespective of the location where these data are stored and with due observance of the agreements and rules concerning international legal assistance;
  • Remotely rendering data inaccessible that are accessible from a computer, irrespective of the location of the automated work on which the data have been stored and with due observance of the agreements and rules concerning international legal assistance;
  • Remotely entering computers and installing technical resources (including software) for the purpose of investigating serious forms of crime;
  • Criminalising the purchase of stolen (digital) data. 

In the coming months, these proposals will be further elaborated together the police, the Public Prosecution Service and other interested parties. A draft legislative proposal is being prepared on the basis thereof, which is intended for consultation in the first quarter of 2013.