US and UK joint data access agreement goes into effect on October 3rd

The US and UK have signed a data access agreement that will allow law enforcement agencies in each country to request internet data from users of the other, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Britain’s Home Office said in a joint press release. The agreement was created in 2019 as the CLOUD Act to enable nations to fight serious crimes such as terrorism, child abuse and cybercrime.

“The Access to Data Agreement will allow faster access than ever to information and evidence held by service providers in each of our countries that relates to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of serious crime,” the DoJ wrote. “This will, for example, help our law enforcement agencies have more effective access to the evidence they need to bring criminals, including terrorists and child abusers, to justice, thereby preventing further victimization.”

First hatched in 2017, the plan arose because crime-fighting agencies in each country were hampered by laws that made it difficult to obtain foreign data from ISPs and companies like Google and Facebook. The aim was to create a bilateral agreement to remove some of these barriers while still “maintaining strong protections for citizens’ privacy,” the UK Home Office said at the time. Australia also joined the CLOUD Act at the end of last year.

Both agencies pledge to “maintain the strong oversight and protection enjoyed by our citizens” and not to compromise or erode human rights. However, when the law was originally drafted, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called it “a dangerous extension of police snooping on cross-border data.”

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