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Monitor those criminals online

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Amid concerns that criminals are hiding online in plain sight, a member of the Government said in Parliament on Tuesday that monitoring suspected persons online may be an important step in preventing misdeeds.

Closing the debate on the Cyber-crime bill in the House of Representatives, Julian Robinson, junior technology minister, said that reliance on the Interception of Communications Act could be key in stemming criminal activities.

"In the same way that in our Interception of Communications Act, if the police have reason to believe that you are involved in criminal activity they can go to the court to request that your phone be bugged. Similarly, what we have found with many of the criminal activities taking place is that in chat rooms, on social media, persons indicate their intentions in these places," Robinson said.

Karl Samuda, the member of parliament for North Central St Andrew, noted that in the United States recently, a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a college in the state of Oregon, killing nine people and wounding seven before he died in a shoot-out with police.

"When they checked his computer everything that manifested itself afterwards was contained on his computer. But America, a highly sophisticated society, does not know that was taking place," Samuda said while questioning how the Government intended to monitor the use of communication devices to reduce crimes.

Responding, Robinson said that it is a "serious concern and there has to be a balance with what is legitimately a national security concern and privacy".

"It is a balance because you can't just go to intercept, lawfully, everybody who is on social media, but certainly, if the police have intelligence to believe that someone is planning to commit an offence, they would have to go though the appropriate legislative means to gain access to that data to prevent a crime taking place," Robinson said.



The Interception of Communications Act allows investigators, pursuant to a warrant granted by a Supreme Court judge, to collect aspects of telecommunications including but not limited to speech, music or other sounds; visual images, whether still or animated; data or text; and any type of signals.

In July, the United States' State Department was forced to amend a portion of a report in which it claimed that the Jamaican Government had been monitoring private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The Government denied the claims and the US amended its report.

Meanwhile, the Cybercrime bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives, contain provisions to crack down on the criminal use or misuse of data captured from computer.

For instance, it would be an offence when persons wilfully use a computer to send to another person any data such as messages or photographs that are obscene, constitute a threat, or are menacing in nature. It would also be an offence if the persons intended to cause, or were reckless as to whether the sending of the data caused, annoyance, inconvenience, distress, or anxiety, to the person to whom it was sent.

A person convicted of such offence, in the case of a first offence, may be fined up to $4 million dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four years, or both such fine and imprisonment in a Resident Magistrate's Court.

The proposed law also allows a police officer, where he feels that a computer has been used in the commission of a crime or may contain evidential material, to seize the device or any data storage medium that is reasonably required for the purposes of a criminal investigation.