Govt paves way for US CLOUD Act with new Bill

Govt paves way for US CLOUD Act with new Bill

Will allow Australian communications providers to share data with foreign governments

Credit: Dreamstime

The Australian Government has moved towards implementing its bilateral  data-swapping program with the United States with the introduction of a new Bill.

The Bill -- known as the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Production Orders) Bill 2020 -- aims to provide a framework that, if passed, would allow domestic law enforcement agencies to access data from the U.S and vice-versa.

The agreement would fall under the U.S. Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (the CLOUD Act), which was enacted it 2018.

The Trump administration originally introduced the legislation to enforce US-based cloud and tech companies to hand over data held offshore under warrant.

If legislated, the act would compel Australian service providers to hand over data to US authorities, and vice-versa, if presented with a warrant or subpoena by law enforcement agencies or the courts.

It would also allow them to be able to respond to orders from another country for access to electronic information, although providers “under Australian law” would not be obligated to respond to these requests. 

“The global connectivity of the internet means evidence once stored in Australia and available under a domestic warrant is now distributed over many different services, in different countries,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said.

“Investigations of serious crimes such as terrorism and child exploitation are too important to be stalled, or even derailed, by outdated, cumbersome processes when evidence includes communication data held in a different country.”

Dutton entered agreements with US Attorney-General William Barr last year more than 18 months after the Federal Government first threw its support behind the act. These talks are said to be still underway. 

Any new legislation would amend the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act).

The Bill would also see the establishment of an Australian Designated Authority (ADA), that would review international production orders and see the ADA act as an intermediary between Australian law enforcement, national security agencies and designated communications providers. 

“A CLOUD Act agreement with the United States will significantly benefit our law enforcement and national security agencies by allowing orders for communication data to be directed at those providers, with robust privacy and civil liberty protections,” Dutton added.

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