Home Secretary Priti Patel last night signed a historic agreement that will enable British law enforcement agencies to directly demand electronic data relating to terrorists, child sexual abusers and other serious criminals from US tech firms.
The world-first UK-US Bilateral Data Access Agreement will dramatically speed up investigations and prosecutions by enabling law enforcement, with appropriate authorisation, to go directly to the tech companies to access data, rather than through governments, which can take years.
The Agreement was signed with US Attorney General William P. Barr in Washington DC, where the Home Secretary also met security partners to discuss the two countries’ ever deeper cooperation and global leadership on security.
Home Secretary 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.
“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.”
US Attorney General William P. 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. 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. Once in place, the Agreement will see the process reduced to a matter of weeks or even days.