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Australia signs Data Sharing Act with the USA

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Australia and the United States have signed the Clarifying Lawful Use of Data (Cloud) Act to enable Australian and US law enforcement agencies and social media companies to easily share data.

This Act was passed in response to the increase in online crime. Both Australia and the US now have the ability to demand data from service providers operating in the other jurisdiction. The term ‘service providers’ encompasses social media companies, telecommunications companies, cloud storage services, and email providers. For example, Australia now has the ability to freely ask for details about Facebook’s operation in the US. This will have the benefit of reducing time to obtain information and prevent criminals from protecting themselves through jurisdictional borders.

However, the Act has already raised the eyebrows of critics due to the unclear safeguards for the protection and privacy of information. In recent years, many tech companies and social media platforms have moved towards end-to-end encryption to prevent malicious actors from accessing information. This has had the effect of even limiting the authority of police in online investigations. Peter Dutton even commented that online encryption was to be so stringent that police were only permitted to access online data through a court-ordered warrant. Although, if governmental bodies and law enforcement agencies are now permitted to access this data without question via this Act, it raises serious issues of data protection and privacy. Facebook commented on this problem by noting that data sharing is only required after a company receives a valid legal request but “does not require companies to build backdoors”.

This new legislation is now passing through parliamentary and congressional review in both Australia and the US. It will be interesting to see whether this law will be subject to any amendments prior to its enactment in July.

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