US and UK joint data access agreement goes into effect on October 3rd

Law enforcement in each country will be able to ask the other for user internet data.

Andrew Kelly / reuters

The US and UK have signed a Data Access Agreement that will allow law enforcement agencies in each country to request user internet data from the other, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and UK Home Office said in a joint press release. The agreement was created in 2019 as the CLOUD Act to allow the nations to fight serious crimes including terrorism, child abuse and cybercrime.

"The Data Access Agreement will allow information and evidence that is held by service providers within each of our nations and relates to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of serious crime to be accessed more quickly than ever before," the DoJ wrote. "This will help, for example, our law enforcement agencies gain more effective access to the evidence they need to bring offenders to justice, including terrorists and child abuse offenders, thereby preventing further victimization."

First hatched in 2017, the plan came about because crime fighting agencies in each country were hamstrung by laws that made it difficult to obtain overseas data from ISPs and companies like Google and Facebook. The aim was to create a bilateral agreement to remove some of those roadblocks and still "maintain rigorous privacy protections for citizens," the UK Home Office said at the time. Australia also joined the CLOUD Act late last year.

Both agencies promise to "maintain the strong oversight and protections that our citizens enjoy," and not compromise or erode human rights. When the law was originally drafted, however, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called it "a dangerous expansion of police snooping on cross-border data."