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EU wants to make it easier for police to obtain user data

It’s the latest battle between law enforcement and user privacy.

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Sylvain Sonnet

In light of recent terror-related attacks, the EU is looking to make it much easier for law enforcement to obtain data from tech companies like WhatsApp, Facebook and Google. The European Commission will propose three options, which will help guide future legislation put forth by the EU.

The first option is the least intrusive and would allow law enforcement agencies in one EU member state to ask a company in another state for data without having to go through that state's authorities first. The second would require those companies to hand over data if asked by another state's law enforcement. And the third -- the most extreme -- would give law enforcement agencies direct access to cloud-stored data.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova told Reuters, "This third option is kind of an emergency possibility which will require some additional safeguards protecting the privacy of people."

This is the latest skirmish between law enforcement and companies that may have useful data on a suspect. Last year, Microsoft scored a legal win that supported its refusal to turn over data stored in Ireland to officials in New York.

Discussions taking place today will include what types of data will be covered by the new law. "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 favor of enabling the use of personal data," said Jourova. The EU plans to put forward legislation by early 2018.

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