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Cybercrime committee extends deadline for submissions


THE joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament reviewing the Cybercrimes Act, 2015, has extended the deadline for submissions by two weeks due a slow response.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz informed the committee at its second meeting, held virtually yesterday, that a number of institutions and companies which were invited to make submissions for possible changes to the Act have not yet done so.

Vaz said that he had received the requests from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited and a few others. However, he noted that a much larger number of invitees had not responded to the requests sent out.

Vaz said that he is hoping that those who have not responded will do so within the two weeks so that the committee can go ahead with the review.

In the meantime, the ministry’s Chief Technical Director Wakheem Murray told yesterday’s meeting that the ministry is looking forward to the information it can obtain from the contributors, which she hopes will reveal any shortcomings in the system.

“This review would certainly bring to the ministry’s attention any shortcomings in the [current] legislation. We have not, as a ministry, received any formal comments from anyone in respect of the working of the legislation, so we see the work of the committee as being critical to learn what the concerns are, if there are any,” Murray said.

She said that the ministry would like to hear from public bodies like the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as law enforcement, as to how the legislation has been working.

“Certainly, we wouldn’t want to fix anything that is not broken and so, like the members of the committee, we are happy for the opportunity to hear from both the public and the private sector, and other entities, regarding how it is going to work and how it can be improved,” she added.

In response to a question from Senator Kavan Gayle about the need to rely on the committee’s findings, Murray explained that the ministry has been looking forward to the committee examining the cyber landscape in a way that would enable it to address the Cybercrime Treaty, and to ensure that it remains as technology neutral as possible, and that whatever is done is in keeping with international best practices.

She said that based on border restrictions, cybercrime has challenges in terms of investigating issues in other countries, which can be blocked because there is no cooperation between them.

“We want a piece of legislation that will cover and will aid prosecutions and investigations in the performance of its work without delineating every single thing,” she said.

She pointed out that the Act applies to conduct occurring wholly or partly in Jamaica; wholly or partly on board a Jamaican ship or Jamaican aircraft; wholly outside of Jamaica and attributable to a Jamaican national; or wholly outside of Jamaica, if the conduct affects a computer or data: wholly/partly in Jamaica; or, wholly/partly on board a Jamaican ship or aircraft.

She noted that while cybercrime evolves, technology can evolve beyond legislation creating a need to keep up with changes. However, she said the ministry has been assured that Jamaica’s legislation is “pretty much on par”.

The current Act came into being in 2015, when it repealed the Cybercrimes Act, 2010, which incorporates amendments recommended by a JSC pursuant to a review conducted under section 1 of the Cybercrimes Act, 2010. It seeks to give effect to that decision which covered issues such as (a) computer-related fraud or forgery; (b) use of computers for malicious communications; and (c) unauthorised disclosure of investigations (tipping-off).

— Balford Henry

 

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