Congress considers legislation to make accessing international data easier for prosecutors

One of the biggest challenges that law enforcement faces today is gaining access to data that is stored overseas that has bearing on cases being tried in the US. The challenge is that even when the data falls under US jurisdiction, the data is still very difficult to access. New legislation is before Congress that would make it easier to access data that could have bearing on cases relating to terrorism and other major crimes.

Sometimes the tech companies that are storing the data want to give access to law enforcement, but they must withhold that data due to other rules and policies. The new legislation put forth by Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons along with members of the House would clarify the legal authority of the US to obtain data stored in another country. The legislation, if approved, would authorize special agreements to resolve legal conflicts.

The bill would authorize the attorney general to enter into agreements with allies that respect privacy and civil liberties and have records of promoting and defending due process. The first such agreement would be with Britain. The agreement would not apply to foreign judicial orders aimed at American citizens or anyone in the US.

The bill would promote justice among nations that share a commitment to the rule of law says the lawmakers. The legislation is called the Cloud Act and before any data would be released under the act, a warrant with judicial approval would be required. Lawmakers say that this sort of legislation is critical to empowering investigators to bring terrorists and perpetrators of serious crime to justice. Serious crimes include murder, human trafficking, and sexual abuse of children specifically.

Business operating in America have indicated that they support such legislation according to the NYT. Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook are listed among the supporters.