UK and US sign landmark law enforcement data access agreement
The UK and the US have signed a bilateral agreement allowing their respective law enforcement agencies to directly demand electronic data relating to serious crime from tech companies in the other jurisdiction.
The world-first UK-US Bilateral Data Access Agreement was signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and US Attorney General William P. Barr in Washington, D.C. last night.
The agreement gives effect to the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019, which received royal assent in February and was facilitated by the CLOUD Act in America, passed last year.
Ms Patel said: “Terrorists and paedophiles continue to exploit the internet to spread their messages of hate, plan attacks on our citizens and target the most vulnerable.
“As Home Secretary I am determined to do everything in my power to stop them. This historic Agreement will dramatically speed up investigations, allowing our law enforcement agencies to protect the public.
“This is just one example of the enduring security partnership we have with the US and I look forward to continuing to work with them and global partners to tackle these heinous crimes.”
Mr Barr added: “This agreement will enhance the ability of the United States and the United Kingdom to fight serious crime – including terrorism, transnational organized crime, and child exploitation – by allowing more efficient and effective access to data needed for quick-moving investigations.
“Only by addressing the problem of timely access to electronic evidence of crime committed in one country that is stored in another, can we hope to keep pace with twenty-first century threats.
“This agreement will make the citizens of both countries safer, while at the same time assuring robust protections for privacy and civil liberties.”
The current process, which see requests for communications data from law enforcement agencies submitted and approved by central governments via Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA), can often take anywhere from six months to two years.
According to the UK and US governments, the new agreement will see the process reduced to a matter of weeks or even days.
The US will have reciprocal access, under a US court order, to data from UK communication service providers. The UK says it has obtained assurances which are in line with the government’s continued opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.
Any request for data must be made under an authorisation in accordance with the legislation of the country making the request and will be subject to independent oversight or review by a court, judge, magistrate or other independent authority.