The Australian Government has thrown support behind new legislation in the United States, designed to enable law enforcement agencies to access domestic or overseas data with a warrant.
Under the banner of the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (the CLOUD Act), the move aims to create a framework for law enforcement agencies to directly access data through lawful warrants, irrespective of whether it is stored on servers in the US or overseas.
Fresh from the act being passed by the US Congress in late March, Angus Taylor, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, said the CLOUD Act represents a “significant step” in international law enforcement cooperation in the digital age.
“The CLOUD Act will greatly improve the efficiency of law enforcement’s access to the information they need to do their job and strengthen protections of people’s data, no matter where their data is held,” said Taylor, via a government statement on 8 April.
“Timely access to electronic data held by communications service providers is an essential component of government efforts to protect public safety and combat serious crime, including terrorism, child sex offences, and organised crime.
“Those efforts are impeded when access to important data held on servers overseas is slowed down by cumbersome processes not suited for fast-advancing communication environments, significantly delaying the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes.”
The CLOUD Act was introduced in response to the challenges encountered by the FBI when attempting to obtain remote data through service providers using warrants written before the introduction of cloud computing.
Specifically, the case in question involves a 2013 drug trafficking investigation, during which the FBI issued a warrant - based on the outdated Stored Communications Act (SCA) of 1986 - for emails that a U.S. citizen had stored on one of Microsoft's remote servers in Ireland.
Microsoft refused to provide the information, resulting in a legal battle between the tech giant and the US, played out in the Supreme Court.
“Given the size and scale of technology and communications companies based in the US, the CLOUD Act has the potential to be of significant benefit to law enforcement,” Taylor added. “Australia welcomes the US taking leadership on this issue.”
In addition, the CLOUD Act will allow bilateral agreements between the US and other countries, which will enable more efficient lawful access to relevant data.
Furthermore, the legislation also aims to establish safeguards for lawful access to data based on adherence to human rights norms and the rule of law.
According to Taylor, this will “strengthen protections” for customer data held by US companies, no matter where it is physically stored.