Public policy responses to cybercrime: a new special issue from Policy and Internet

Cybercrime is just one of many significant and challenging issues of ethics and public policy raised by the Internet. It has policy implications for both national and supra-national legislation, involving, as it may, attacks against the integrity, authenticity, and confidentiality of information systems; content-related crimes, and “traditional”: crimes committed using networked technologies.

While ‘cybercrime’ can be used to describe a wide range of undesirable conduct facilitated by networked technologies, it is not a legal term of art, and many so-called cybercrimes (such as cyber-rape and the virtual vandalism of virtual worlds) are not necessarily crimes as far as the criminal law is concerned. This can give rise to novel situations in which outcomes that feel instinctively wrong do not give rise to criminal liability. Emily Finch discusses the tragic case of Bernard Gilbert: a man whose argument over a disputed parking space led to his death, a police officer having disclosed Gilbert’s home address to his assailant. The officer was charged simply with the offence of disclosing personal data; the particular consequences of such disclosure being immaterial under English criminal law. Finch argues that this is unsatisfactory: as more personal information is gathered and available online, the greater the potential risk to the individual from its unauthorized disclosure. She advocates a two-tier structure for liability in the event that disclosure results in harm.

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