Internet crime of often “elusive” because it crosses borders with “a click of a mouse.” To fight this a new law has just been signed by President Bush, which gives the Federal Trade Commission a license to go after the problem at it’s source.

In their recommendations to Congress, the FTC wrote:

Using Internet and long-distance telephone technology, unscrupulous businesses can strike quickly on a global scale, victimize thousands of consumers, and disappear nearly without a trace, along with their ill-gotten gains. For example, deceptive spammers can easily hide their identities, forge the electronic path of their email messages, and send messages from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world. Fraudulent overseas telemarketers can also victimize American consumers and hide their ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts.

The US Safe Web Act contains the following provisions:

Broadening Reciprocal Information Sharing and International Investigative Cooperation.

The FTC can now share confidential information in consumer protection cases with foreign law enforcers. The Act further allows the FTC and foreign law enforcement agencies to obtain investigative assistance from one another, while exempting information from foreign agencies from public disclosure laws. This provision addresses the concern expressed by some foreign government agencies that materials they share with the FTC might be publicly disclosed in response to an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This concern is reflected in certain foreign laws where the foreign consumer protection agency is not permitted to share information with the FTC unless the information is kept confidential. For example, Canada’s Competition Act and the European Unions enforcement cooperation regulation contain such confidentiality requirements.

The FTC can now share confidential information in consumer protection cases with foreign law enforcers.

The Act further allows the FTC and foreign law enforcement agencies to obtain investigative assistance from one another, while exempting information from foreign agencies from public disclosure laws. This provision addresses the concern expressed by some foreign government agencies that materials they share with the FTC might be publicly disclosed in response to an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This concern is reflected in certain foreign laws where the foreign consumer protection agency is not permitted to share information with the FTC unless the information is kept confidential. For example, Canada’s Competition Act and the European Unions enforcement cooperation regulation contain such confidentiality requirements.

Enhancing Confidentiality of FTC Investigations.

Prevents notifying subjects of investigations if they may be likely to destroy evidence or move assets offshore.

Protecting Certain Entities Reporting Suspected Fraud and Deception Violations.

The Act protects a limited category of entities from liability for voluntary disclosures to the FTC relating to suspected fraud and deception. This provision is similar to longstanding protections for financial intuitions making disclosures to the FTC and is necessary to encourage reporting of suspected violations to federal agencies. The Act protects a limited category of entities from liability for voluntary disclosures to the FTC relating to suspected fraud and deception. This provision is similar to longstanding protections for financial intuitions making disclosures to the FTC and is necessary to encourage reporting of suspected violations to federal agencies.

Allowing Information Sharing with Federal Financial and Market Regulators.

This provision assists the FTC in tracking proceeds of fraud and deception sent through U.S. banks to foreign jurisdictions so they can be returned to victims.

Enhancing Cooperation between FTC and DOJ in Foreign Litigation.

Permits the FTC to work with DOJ to increase the resources relating to FTC-related foreign litigation, such as freezing foreign assets and enforcing U.S. court judgments abroad. Permits the FTC to work with DOJ to increase the resources relating to FTC-related foreign litigation, such as freezing foreign assets and enforcing U.S. court judgments abroad.

Clarifying FTC Authority to Make Criminal Referrals.

Authorizes the FTC to share information with criminal authorities, which will improve information sharing with foreign agencies that treat consumer fraud and deception as a criminal law enforcement issue. Authorizes the FTC to share information with criminal authorities, which will improve information sharing with foreign agencies that treat consumer fraud and deception as a criminal law enforcement issue.

Report to Congress.

The Act requires the FTC to report to Congress within three years from the date of enactment, describing the use of the FTC’s expanded authority and activities under the Act. The Act requires the FTC to report to Congress within three years from the date of enactment, describing the use of the FTC’s expanded authority and activities under the Act.

US Safe Web Act FTC document, here.

Although this law has just been enacted, it takes away a lot of the barriers to effectively going after individuals and organizations (businesses) that enable the growing problem of cybercrime.

Recently, I’ve written that technology will never solve Internet crime. It might stop it, or slow it down – but in the end “technology defeats technology.”

Holding individuals and organizations accountable is likely to be a lot more effective. This new law breaks down a lot of the barriers that have prevented law enforcement agencies from doing so.

This (in my opinion) is a start in the right direction.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft has taken a similar approach – taking legal action worldwide. Here is a previous post, I wrote about this approach:

Does Microsoft’s Approach to Addressing Counterfeiting Make More Sense?

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