European Commission wants to negotiate access to digital evidence in the US

The European Commission wants to negotiate with the United States about access to digital evidence stored at American companies. Such evidence must reach European investigative authorities in ten days.

Currently, US companies cooperate with European authorities on a voluntary basis and US laws do not always allow them to immediately respond to requests for data access, the European Commission writes. Obtaining digital evidence therefore takes an average of ten months. Agreements about this should significantly reduce this time, the European Commission wants digital evidence to be transferred within ten days.

Negotiations should go further into addressing legal conflicts, by clearly defining what data is involved and by setting out obligations and safeguards. Strong safeguards for data protection and privacy must also be guaranteed.

According to the European Commission, the majority of criminal investigations in Europe require access to digital evidence and often involve data stored outside the EU. In December, the Council of the European Union already approved a directive on the handing over of electronic evidence between member states. In addition, providers must also submit requested data within ten days, but in emergencies that deadline can be reduced to six hours.

In addition, the European Commission wants to participate in negotiations on the Budapest Treaty, the so-called Cybercrime Treaty. This convention on tackling digital crime was signed in 2001 and now has more than sixty participating countries. An additional protocol will be introduced, including on the handling of digital evidence. The European Commission wants to represent the EU Member States in the negotiations to ensure that the protocol is compatible with current and future EU legislation. The Commission also wants to negotiate better safeguards for the protection of personal data.

The European Commission has presented the negotiations to the European Council. The latter must assess the proposals and can then give a mandate to the Commission to conduct the negotiations.