European Court to decide on traceability of communications [2nd update]

The European Court of Human Rights is to decide on the complaint of a victim of identity theft (Application Number 2872/02).

In 1999, an unidentified person published an advertisement for a homosexual relationship under the name of the applicant, a then 12 year old boy. The offender was not prosecuted because national law limited access to IP addresses to serious crime.

The applicant is complaining before the European Court of Human Rights that he had not had an effective remedy under national law to discover the identity of the perpetrator. On 27 June 2006 the Court ruled the complaint to be admissible as it raised serious issues of fact and law under the Convention and was not manifestly ill-founded.

An amicus curiae brief has now been submitted to the Court, pointing out that the outcome of the case could have far-reaching effects on the privacy of all European Internet users. A ruling requiring Contracting States to provide for the traceability of communications would have very serious consequences on user privacy.

According to the brief, freedom of expression on the Internet is protected under Article 10 of the Convention. The privacy of communications is protected under Article 8 of the Convention. „Considering the importance of those freedoms and the fact that their benefits by far outweigh the damage caused by their abuse, the Convention requires the creation of effective mechanisms for having illegal content on the Internet removed, but does not require traceability of Internet publishers or users.“

The brief is available on-line for more details. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is already involved in the case.

See also:

Update of 28 October 2008:

The Court has rejected the brief mentioned above. A letter dated 20 October 2008 reads: „Having examined the matter in light of Rule 44 § 2 of the Rules of Court, the President of the Chamber has decided to refuse your request as it has not been submitted within the time allowed (Rule 44 § 2 (b)) and having regard to the state of the proceedings in the case.“

Rule 44 § 2 states:

(a) Once notice of an application has been given to the respondent Contracting Party under Rule 51 § 1 or Rule 54 § 2 (b), the President of the Chamber may, in the interests of the proper administration of justice, as provided in Article 36 § 2 of the Convention, invite, or grant leave to, any Contracting Party which is not a party to the proceedings, or any person concerned who is not the applicant, to submit written comments or, in exceptional cases, to take part in a hearing.

(b) Requests for leave for this purpose must be duly reasoned and submitted in writing in one of the official languages as provided in Rule 34 § 4 not later than twelve weeks after notice of the application has been given to the respondent Contracting Party. Another time limit may be fixed by the President of the Chamber for exceptional reasons.

Update of 4 November 2008:

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