The European Union wants to give investigative authorities quick access to data in clouds controlled by US providers.
In a reaction to the increase in terrorist attacks throughout Europe, the European Commission is considering emergency rules enabling police and other law enforcement agencies in the EU to gain entry to data held by tech companies in the United States of America. Such a new legislation would make data transfer from Facebook and Google faster, meaning important evidence will be more easily accessible.
Restrictions are currently in place on the retrievability of data from the US; as with any data, it has to be stored in line with regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is held. At the moment, EU police forces have to ask permission from the owner country’s police force or go via courts to get warrants to access data and so-called ‘e-evidence’ held in the US.
The three options proposed by the European Commission are as follows:
1. A new legislation enabling police forces in one jurisdiction to ask IT providers (data controllers) in another jurisdiction to provide evidence without first having to ask the country.
2. A new legislation forcing companies to provide data when requested to do so by investigative authorities from another state, allowing law enforcement agencies direct access to the cloud.
3. A new legislation where data in the cloud is directly accessed by police forces in other states. Only at times when law enforcement aren’t certain of the location of the server hosting the data, or when the data is at risk of being lost, would this be used. Such a legislation would be an ‘emergency possibility’ and would ‘require additional safeguards protecting the privacy of the people’, said Věra Jourová, EU Justice Commissioner.
The possibility of law enforcement gaining direct access to the cloud and user data has added fuel to the on-going debate about data privacy, and has raised many questions regarding the safeguarding of data.
Once again, we are reminded of the fine line between efficient law enforcement in the digital world and the erosion of user privacy. Critics have already weighed in on the possibility of the new legislation, saying that it’s critical to sustain user trust in the cloud.
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