Technology companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook will be forced to hand over users’ data to European law enforcement officials even when it is stored on servers outside the bloc, under a law proposed by the European Union yesterday.
The law would allow European prosecutors to force companies to turn over data such as emails, text messages and pictures stored online in another country, within 10 days or as little as six hours in urgent cases.
The EU executive says the proposed law, which would apply to data stored inside and outside the bloc, is necessary because current legal procedures between countries to obtain such electronic evidence can drag on for months.
“Electronic evidence is increasingly important in criminal proceedings,” said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
“We cannot allow criminals and terrorists to exploit modern and electronic communication technologies to hide their criminal actions and evade justice.”
On the frontline of the ongoing investigation into claims that Cambridge Analytica may have illegally harvested Facebook data for political ends, former CA boss Alexander Nix has refused to appear for a second grilling by British lawmakers, the MPs’ scrutiny panel investigating him said yesterday.
The ex-CA chief executive was due to appear today before parliament’s culture, media and sport committee over the British political consultancy firm’s highly controversial work. They wanted to probe inconsistencies in the testimony he gave before the committee on February 27.
Digital borders are a growing global issue in an era where big firms operate so-called cloud networks of giant data centers, which means that an individual’s data can reside anywhere.
Technology companies have found themselves torn between protecting consumers’ privacy while cooperating with law enforcement. The political pressure has intensified after Islamist-inspired attacks across Europe in recent years.
The United States recently moved to address the same problem, passing a law making it clear that US judges could issue warrants for data held abroad while giving firms an avenue to object if the request conflicts with foreign law.
Prosecutors and police will have to ask a judge to approve their request for electronic evidence where it concerns more sensitive data, such as the actual content of messages, emails, pictures and videos.
The proposal will apply only in cases where crimes carry a minimum jail sentence of three years. In cases of cybercrime there will be no minimum penalty requirement.