WASHINGTON - The United States and the U.K. have signed an agreement, under a controversial new U.S. law, that will allow law enforcement agencies to force tech companies to turn over electronic communications for use in criminal investigations regardless of which country the data is stored in.
The accord is the first of its kind signed under the CLOUD Act, a law passed last year by Congress that has been severely criticized by some European countries for threatening privacy rights.
The French government has labeled it a threat to its “digital sovereignty,” while Germany has expressed concern about U.S. authorities snooping on ordinary Germans’ personal data. U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, who signed the agreement at a ceremony in Washington on Thursday, sought to mollify those concerns.
"This agreement will make the citizens of both countries safer, while at the same time assuring robust protections for privacy and civil liberties,” Barr said.
“Terrorists and pedophiles continue to exploit the internet to spread their messages of hate, plan attacks on our citizens and target the most vulnerable,” Patel said. “As home secretary, I am determined to do everything in my power to stop them.”
The agreement comes with certain caveats. The two countries agreed to get each other’s permission before using data acquired under the agreement in certain cases – death penalty prosecutions in the U.S. and freedom of speech cases in the U.K.
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