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Much is made of the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom. While that is usually within the political realm, it seems the relationship also extends to data. Years after initially discussing the idea, the US and UK are entering into a Data Access Agreement. This will allow the two nations to share data with each other.

In the United States, the deal was possible through the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act. According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the data pact with the UK is the first of its kind.

Under the terms of the agreement, authorities in the US and UK will be able to share data. Both countries say the main reason for the deal is to fight again serious criminal activity:

“Under the Data Access Agreement, service providers in one country may respond to qualifying, lawful orders for electronic data issued by the other country, without fear of running afoul of restrictions on cross-border disclosures. The Data Access Agreement fosters more timely and efficient access to electronic data required in fast-moving investigations through the use of orders covered by the Agreement.

“This will greatly enhance the ability of the United States and the United Kingdom to prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute serious crime, including terrorism, transnational organized crime, and child exploitation, among others.”

Details

In the United Kingdom, the Home Office Investigatory Powers Unit will lead the Data Access Agreement. In the United States, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs (OIA) will oversee the pact.

It has been over five years since both countries first floated the idea of a shared data agreement. Since then, the idea has gained plenty of critics. Among them is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which said in 2018:

“[Data Access Agreement] creates a dangerous precedent for other countries who may want to access information stored outside their own borders, including data stored in the United States.”

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