July 22, 2022

US and UK issue joint statement on Data Access Agreement

On July 21, 2022, the US and UK released a joint statement announcing their intention to bring into force a Data Access Agreement on October 3, 2022.  The UK-US Data Access Agreement (DAA), which was signed in 2019, signifies a renewed commitment by the US and UK to address the threat of serious crime by allowing each country’s investigators to gain quicker access to information and evidence held by telecommunications service providers in each country in order to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute serious crime offenders, including terrorists and child abuse offenders. Both countries report that the DAA will be the first agreement of its kind, enabling public authorities in each country to have timely, efficient and lawful cross-border access to vital data while maintaining democratic and civil liberties standards that the US and UK have promoted around the world.  The DAA is also the first step in implementing the CLOUD Act, also known as the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, which was enacted by the US in 2018 in order to enable foreign partners who are investigating serious crime to have speedy access to electronic information held by US-based global service providers.

On July 21, 2022, the UK also released a Policy Factsheet on the UK-US Data Access Agreement and the purpose it serves.  According to the factsheet, many popular telecommunications service providers, such as social media platforms and messaging services, operate within the jurisdiction of the US, and US law prevents these companies from sharing certain data in response to direct requests by a foreign government.  In addition, current programs that allow government-to-government requests, such as “mutual legal assistance,” are typically very slow and can take many months to complete, which can hamper critical investigations and enable suspected offenders to continue to commit crime and harm victims.  The DAA will require each country to ensure that their laws permit telecommunications operators to lawfully respond to direct request for DAA data as long as the request made by a relevant public authority in the other country’s jurisdiction. Ultimately, the DAA aims to prevent criminals from hiding behind jurisdictional barriers to conceal their criminal activities.

The UK reports that all existing mechanisms for oversight of UK investigatory powers will continue to apply.  The UK has also passed new legislation that gives the UK’s Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office the authority to oversee the UK’s use of the DAA.

Department of Justice Press Release | UK Policy Factsheet on the UK-US Data Access Agreement