The world's leading industrial nations have been holding talks about how to tackle high-tech crime. The G8 nations (the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and Russia) exchanged ideas about how to cut the amount of crime perpetrated online in a series of workshops.

Attendees at the G8 government/private sector high-level meeting on high-tech crime discussed a range of issues relating to data ownership and retention and online security.

However, as PC Advisor’s coverage of EU internet-related law has shown, the idea of monitoring online activities has not met with universal approval. Last week’s confirmation by the EU of the existence of the Echelon international surveillance network was also greeted with suspicion.

Commentators are particularly concerned about compromises in individual users’ privacy resulting from measures aimed at preventing so-called cybercrime. Ownership of data is another major concern.

Keeping internet traffic- and subscriber-related data under force of law may well help trace criminals and terrorists on the internet. But each country should be careful when deciding upon legislation, said Toru Maruhashi, a lawyer and the general manager of the legal department at Nifty, a major Japanese ISP. "It needs to [respect] human rights and privacy and should not be done just because it can control the crime."

The distribution of illegal content, such as child pornography, on the internet was another hot topic at the G8 meeting. Such distribution can be stopped only at the end-user level, said Jean-Christophe Le Toquin of the French Internet Access and Service Providers' Association.

Ideas discussed during the meeting will form the basis of domestic solutions, Le Toquin said.

Tighter e-commerce security to stamp out online credit card fraud and the creation of a G8 website telling users how to conduct safer transactions were recommended, said Michael Rotert of the Electronic Commerce Forum, who set up the related workshop.

High-tech crime issues were discussed at the G8 conference in Paris in May last year and were continued in Berlin in October.