Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 920 - 931)



  Q920  Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Can I follow that up? You may know that in the UK the Internet Watch Foundation—

  Mr Klabunde: I believe there is a problem with the connection, we cannot hear you.

  Q921  Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I wanted to follow up my question by saying that in the UK the Internet Watch Foundation has been very successful in closing down a number of child abuse sites. Nevertheless, we only learnt today that there has been a very substantial increase in the amount of child pornography being carried through the Internet. You have indicated that there are quite a number of initiatives now to get co-operation going on between Member States. Is there something equivalent to the Internet Watch Foundation being established at a European level?

  Ms Traung: Yes, it is. Actually the Internet Watch Foundation is one of the projects funded by the Safer Internet programme—50% of the funding comes from the EU.

  Q922  Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Excellent.

  Ms Traung: The Safer Internet programme gives financial support to a network of hotlines and Internet Watch Foundation is one of its members. There are members in around 23 other European countries, and the purpose of these hotlines is to decrease at the number of child abuse images and others illegal content on the Internet. This means that there are actions ongoing in almost all European countries.

  Ms Yudina: It is 24 countries.

  Q923  Baroness Sharp of Guildford: That sounds good. Can I put one final question to you—and this really goes back to some of the issues we were talking about right at the very beginning—how far does the European Union see itself as having a role in educating either children or the general public about Internet security?

  Ms Yudina: Our programme has four main emphases and one of them is awareness raising among children and parents. Our programme supports the INSAFE awareness network that is working with schools, parents and children to teach them about the risks that can be faced on the Internet.

  Chairman: Lord Harris who has joined us would like to ask a question too.

  Q924  Lord Harris of Haringey: It is a very general question which you might all want to answer but it in the areas in which this Committee is interested, in terms of personal Internet security and the questions about safety on line in particular for children and other vulnerable groups, are there areas where you feel as officials that you are frustrated because you do not have the power of a mandate to take action? If you had the relevant powers of mandate what would those actions be?

  Ms Traung: For the Safer Internet programme we have a mandate to do what we want to do and this is mainly to promote awareness raising and to co-fund the network of hotlines , allowing the public to report illegal content they come across on the Internet.

  Ms Yudina: The question is what else we could do. Now our programme has launched an online public consultation to find new areas where we can contribute in the sphere of child protection .

  Q925  Lord Harris of Haringey: And in terms of spam and the other issues that the Committee has asked about?

  Ms Yudina: Spam is not for our programme.

  Q926  Lord Harris of Haringey: I am talking to the other officials, whether they feel frustrated about the limits to their mandate or to the powers that they have.

  Mr Schik: The short answer is no, no frustration but what there is still—and it is also what we address in the communication—that Member States already provide a lot in terms of legal possibilities to fight spam, spyware and malicious software. But on the enforcement side of things the political commitment is not being put through at every instance into practical enforcement activities and that is something we still hope will improve but it is not taking up the speed we might want it to take up.

  Q927  Lord Harris of Haringey: If I could just press you on that, is there a lack of commitment from the UK government or is it from other areas?

  Mr Schik: I am not in a position to comment specifically on the UK government, so I will not!

  Q928  Lord Harris of Haringey: Very wise!

  Mr Schik: At the same time we identify the level of critical success factors—and I talked about that earlier. Commitment, who is responsible, what type of resources are dedicated to fighting these practices, what type of fines are imposed, how are spammers or other criminal types deterred from taking up these activities. Those are indicators that one should look at when assessing Member State policy. I can give you an example which is also described in the communication. For example if you take the Netherlands, a couple of years ago they had a strong commitment by the government to take up the fight against spam and they dedicated a team of five to engage in this fight and they invested €300,000 in equipment and material to undertake this and it decreased Dutch spam in two years or so by 85%, which is quite a considerable achievement, and that same team is now also working in other areas such as spyware and malware, building on the experience they have gained. So without commenting on other Member States this is an example of how it could work.

  Q929  Lord Harris of Haringey: But the Dutch example you have given, was the 85% reduction in terms of spam emanating from there or was it an 85% reduction in the spam experienced by users in the Netherlands?

  Mr Schik: No, it was Dutch spam because they focused on spam being sent from the Netherlands, being facilitated from machines based in the Netherlands.

  Q930  Lord Harris of Haringey: That is helpful.

  Mr Schik: Maybe to give you another example, in Finland they also put quite a lot of effort into securing their networks and to try to clamp up the amount of spam being transferred through the Net and they also achieved considerable success in that. The communication also refers to Finland.

  Q931  Chairman: That has brought us to the end of our questions. It has been very useful indeed for us to be able to speak to you and to get your views. We have access of course to the Commission documents on the website but if there is anything else that you feel would be of interest and importance to us in our inquiry we would very much appreciate it if you would send it to us or direct us to where we can find it. Let me thank you all very much for answering our questions; it will be useful and we will make sure you receive a copy of our report when it is published.

  Mr Holla: Thank you very much for giving us an opportunity to tell you something about our daily work.

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