Add Australia to the ranks of countries agreeing to honor US search warrants under America's CLOUD Act.
The Down Under Five Eyes member on Monday announced it had agreed to the bilateral agreement formally known as the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, just one week after the US struck a similar alliance with the UK.
In the US, the partnership would be covered under the CLOUD Act, while in Australia new legislation will have to be written and passed before anything becomes official.
“The CLOUD Act was created to permit our close foreign partners who have robust protections for privacy and civil liberties, such as Australia, to enter into executive agreements with the United States," US Attorney General William Barr said of the deal.
"This agreement, if finalized and approved, will allow service providers in Australia and the United States to respond to lawful orders from the other country without fear of running afoul of restrictions on disclosure, and thus provide more access for both countries to providers holding electronic evidence that is crucial in today’s investigations and prosecutions."
Under the terms of the deal, law enforcement agencies in America, UK, and Australia will be able to present court-issued search warrants to cloud providers and social networks in another nation within the trio, and have the warrants honored. Crucially, that won't involve having to go through multiple overseas courts: the process is pretty much streamlined. That will result in suspects' and other people's personal records and private info being handed over to foreign cops and g-men with ease.
For example, police in Australia would now have a fast-track to serve warrants to US-based Facebook in order to obtain access to user information, cutting out what had been a complex and tedious legal process. For what it's worth, and as far as we understand it, investigators can't demand decrypted copies of encrypted data via this mechanism.
"Current processes for obtaining electronic information held by service providers in other countries risk loss of evidence and unacceptable delays to criminal justice outcomes," commented Peter Dutton, Australian Minister for Home Affairs and the Down-Under representative in the deal.
"When police are investigating a terrorist plot or serious crime such as child exploitation, they need to be able to move forward without delay, but within the law – and the CLOUD Act strikes exactly that balance. This is the way of the future between likeminded countries."
The move also comes as both governments are being accused of infringing on the privacy rights of citizens.