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Media, identity, financial protection hot on draft Cyber Crime Bill consultations

Concerns were Wednesday raised that the loss of money as a result of cyber theft at banks and other financial institutions  is not provided  for in the draft legislation currently under discussion.

A stakeholder consultation was held for the second time when the draft Cybercrime Bill 2016 was discussed at the Pegasus Hotel Wednesday 16, 2016. Those in attendance included Minister of Legal Affairs, Attorney General Basil Williams, United States Charge d’ Affaires Bryan Hunt, Inter-American Development Bank Representative Sophie Makonnen, parliamentary staffers, officials of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), the Guyana Revenue Authority’s Legal Department and the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest).

The Bill has been already published in the official gazette but is yet to be debated by the National Assembly.

Among the many concerns highlighted was the need for regulations that obligate institutions to follow certain guidelines that protect customers should their systems be hacked and customers monies are stolen.

Parliamentary Counsel, Vonetta Atwell-Singh told attendees that the particular scenario was considered but a clause was not included in the draft. She said in examining that issue the United States (US) was examined. “For example if a credit card fraud is committed and money is lost, the bank will investigate and they will repay some of it. But we have not inserted a clause in this legislation to look at that.” Atwell-Singh mentioned, however, that the issue could be further considered and she invited submissions to that effect.

Financial institutions, State and government are prime cyber-criminal targets. The absence of solid guidelines on the protection of vulnerable stakeholders, citizens, investors among others, leaves a huge gap in the entire system some believe.

Identity theft was another issue. It was expressed by one individual whether penalties should be provided for institutions that hold customers’ vital personal information which would have gotten into the wrong hands as a result of system hacking. It was also questioned how it could be verified that those institutions are doing all that is necessary to effectively protect their systems.

Another major concern regarding the draft, came from the media fraternity was protection for media personnel who through their work might place persons in a negative light via  computer based communications.

Enrico Woolford, a veteran media practitioner and executive member of the Guyana Press Association (GPA),  whether media personnel would be subjected to the law especially where penalties were spoken of for persons violating another’s privacy through the Internet. A clause under ‘Harassment utilising a computer system’ states that a person who recklessly or intentionally uses a computer system to disseminate any information, statement or image, and causing public embarrassment, hatred, public ridicule, and contempt  could face as much as a $10 million dollar fine and five years imprisonment.

Woolford questioned, if the media exposes the private affairs of another person leading to the negative outcomes mentioned media workers would be penalized. He said it is especially important since despite the recognised need, there is no press freedom legislation in other that the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Attorney General Basil Williams in his response noted that in such matters criminal liability plays a key factor. He said too that even in civil libel matters, justification of the fact must be established. “If someone  publishes an article about you, your defence is whether it’s true, or justification appears as a matter of public interest… there must be a clear substantive of the facts and a clear criticism of the substantive facts…” The matter of malice will also play a role in determining the case. The AG pointed out that the draft legislation stands to be corrected and external views examined before inviting more comments.