On October 3, 2019, the UK and the US authorities signed the First Data Access Agreement under the CLOUD Act (the US Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act 2018) and the UK Crime Act 2019 (Overseas Production Orders).
UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and US Attorney General William Barr signed the Data Access Agreement in Washington, DC. It will enable the two participating countries, i.e., the British and American law enforcement agencies, including the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to access automated data from tech companies faster and in a more direct manner. In cases of child sexual abuse, criminal terrorism, and other serious crimes data can be accessed directly from technology firms cases involving the two parties; the country can freely use data without any legal barriers.
The requesting country will need authorization from a legal authority, judge, court, or other independent authorities to request data access.
Under the Agreement, both countries would:
- Mark suspects who are non-residents of the country from the evidence gathered to operate in such a manner that data protection laws would not be breached.
- Obtain permission from the participants if the data would be used during prosecutions for death penalty cases in the US, and cases of freedom of speech in the UK.
The Agreement will quicken dozens of complex and pending investigations of suspected terrorist activities and sexual abuse of children, like-Matthew Falder’s case; he was condemned of 137 offenses, in the UK, in 2018. He had online child sexual abuse, forced labor, blackmail, and sharing of indecent images, ongoing for eight-years. It highlighted the necessity to speed up these investigations.
Ms. Patel announced that the bilateral agreement would “dramatically speed up investigations, allowing our law enforcement agencies to protect the public,” while Mr. Barr added: “[..]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 21st-century threats.”
The Agreement is undergoing reviews by the US Congress and the UK Parliament, but once it is operational, it will significantly boost evidence gathering by giving an alternative to the conventional Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) regime. Under MLA, data requests have to be approved by a country’s government and have to go through many levels of authorization. This Agreement has a course of five years, but both the parties have powers to revoke it on 30 days’ notice.