Including providing data directly from cloud storage, retrieving electronic evidence from US tech firms for the police and law enforcement agencies is being made easier by the European Union.
Even when it is stored in another EU member state – which is often a slow process, new legislation to speed up the transfer of crucial data from companies such as Facebook and Google, is being proposed by the European Commission in the wake of terrorists attacks across Europe.
Three options that will form the basis of a future legislative proposal, is set to be proposed by the EC.
“I am sure that now in the shadow of the recent terrorist attacks and increasing threats in Europe there will be more understanding among the ministers, even among those who come from countries where there has not been a terrorist attack,” EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said.
the EC’s proposals, which will then form the basis of a motion put forward by the EU executive by early 2018, are to be discussed at a EU justice ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
Without having to ask that member state first, allowing law enforcement agencies in one member state to ask an IT provider in another member state to turn over electronic evidence, is the least intrusive option of the three EC proposals.
Data stored in other member countries would have to be handed over if requested by law enforcement agencies by the companies as an obligation, is the second option.
For situations where authorities do not know the location of the server hosting the data or there is a risk of the data being lost, it is being suggested to allow law enforcement agencies direct access to information in the cloud, and this is the most intrusive option.
“This third option is kind of an emergency possibility which will require some additional safeguards protecting the privacy of people,” Jourova said. “You simply cannot massively collect some digital data for some future use.”
“My preference is to go for this as an extraordinary measure for extraordinary threats, for high gravity criminal offences such as terrorism and there I am in favour of enabling the use of personal data,” Jourova said, adding that no decision has yet been taken.
As well as safeguards such as requiring that law enforcement requests are necessary and proportionate, from location or traffic data to personal communications, the types of data that could fall within the scope of the law will be discussed on Thursday.
At present, reliance on Irish authorities requesting the data from agencies in Germany seeking data stored in Ireland is the only option. Ireland is important because it is the location of many US tech firms’ European headquarters, including Facebook’s.
With critics saying that maintaining user trust in the cloud is critical, particularly where that data could be seized, balancing between eroding user data privacy and speeding law enforcement efforts in moments of crisis will be a difficult task. Many questions over privacy and safeguards would be raised by direct access to user data.
(Adapted from The Guardian)