EU moves to make it easier for police to force big tech companies to hand over data

Proposals for a faster and less cumbersome process of obtaining information like this has been met by fierce criticism because of fears that customers’ privacy might become compromised

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The Independent Online

The EU wants to streamline the process of obtaining electronic evidence from technology giants such as Facebook and Google directly, after a string of terror attacks across Europe in recent years has heaped pressure on companies to cooperate more.

Speaking to Reuters this week, Vera Jourova, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, said that the European Commission will present three options to EU ministers to form the basis of a future legislative proposal. That will include the possibility for police to copy data from the big tech players directly from the cloud.

“I am sure that now in the shadow of the recent terrorist attacks and increasing threats in Europe there will be more understanding among the ministers, even among those who come from countries where there has not been a terrorist attack,” she told the agency.

EU justice ministers were due to meet on Thursday in Brussels to discuss the Commission’s options. Ms Jourova said that, based on their preferences, the EU executive will then come forward with a proposal by the end of the year or early next year.

Proposals for a faster and less cumbersome process of obtaining information like this has been met by fierce criticism because of fears that customers’ privacy might become compromised, which in turn might make people less likely to use such cloud services.

Last year a federal court in the US ruled that the government cannot force Microsoft to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the US.

Reuters reported that the types of data that could fall within the scope of the new law would also be discussed on Thursday. Options range from non-content data, such as location or traffic data, to personal communications data.

In the aftermath of last weekend’s brutal terror attacks in London that left eight people dead and several dozen more injured, Theresa May said that new international agreements should be introduced to regulate the internet. The Prime Minister also said that technology firms were currently not doing enough.

Some of the biggest players we quick to respond, however.

Simon Milner, director of policy at Facebook, said at the time that Facebook already implements the measures that Ms May is demanding. Representatives for Google and Twitter echoed those remarks. 

Additional reporting by Reuters

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