The United Kingdom and the United States have entered into a data access arrangement that will allow UK law enforcement agencies to demand electronic data on serious criminals directly from US tech companies.
The deal is supposed to greatly speed up investigations and trials by granting the law enforcement agencies the ability to go directly to tech companies to access information on terrorists, child sexual predators and other violent offenders.
Previously, the agencies had to go through governments for access to data, which can be a lengthy process, from six months to two years.
As part of the current procedure, these applications must be submitted and accepted by central governments through mutual legal assistance (MLA).
Once the new data access arrangement comes into force, the procedure can be limited to just a few weeks or even days said the UK Government.
According to the UK Home Office, the new agreement would facilitate hundreds of complicated inquiries into suspected terrorists and paedophiles each year.
The data access arrangement was signed by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and US Attorney General William P Barr in Washington DC.
Priti 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.
Barr said, “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.
The US will have reciprocal access as well, and under a US court order will be able to access data from UK communication service providers.
The data access agreement is not expected to change anything about how tech companies can use encryption and will not prohibit them from encrypting data, the UK Government said.