The United States and the United Kingdom will officially “bring into force” a cross-border data sharing agreement in October, which gives law enforcement investigators in both countries easier access to electronic information held by tech companies, according to a joint statement shared by the Justice Department on Thursday.
The partnership, known as the “Data Access Agreement,” came into being as a result of the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data, or CLOUD Act, that Congress passed in 2018 to improve the legal procedures for both foreign and U.S. investigators to access electronic data held by a company based in either country.
The CLOUD Act enables the U.S. to enter into bilateral data sharing agreements with “foreign partners that have robust protections for privacy and civil liberties,” according to the DOJ.
While mutual legal assistance treaties enable government-to-government requests for access to electronic data for law enforcement purposes, the process can be time consuming and hamper investigations into serious crimes. The joint U.S.-U.K. statement said that the CLOUD Act-based agreement will allow investigators
“to gain better access to vital data to combat serious crime in a way that is consistent with our shared values and mission of protecting our citizens and safeguarding our national security.”
“The Data Access Agreement will allow information and evidence that is held by service providers within each of our nations and relates to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of serious crime to be accessed more quickly than ever before,”
the statement added.
“This will help, for example, our law enforcement agencies gain more effective access to the evidence they need to bring offenders to justice, including terrorists and child abuse offenders, thereby preventing further victimization.”
The U.S.-U.K. Data Access Agreement, signed in 2019 by former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and current U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, will go into effect on October 3.
In a tweet following the release of the joint statement, Patel said that the agreement
“strengthens our ability to go after dangerous criminals.”
The Data Access Agreement is the first such bilateral agreement finalized between the U.S. and a foreign country. The U.S. and Australia signed a similar CLOUD Act agreement last December, although that agreement is still under review by Congress and the Australian Parliament before it goes into effect.
[Story by Edward Graham published in NextGov]