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What is the CLOUD Act Agreement?

Earlier this week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a joint statement with Australia’s own Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton.

Speaking in an official statement from the DOJ, US Attorney General William Barr said, “The CLOUD Act was created to permit our close foreign partners who have robust protections for privacy and civil liberties, such as Australia, to enter into executive agreements with the United States.”

Barr continued that, “This agreement, if finalised and approved, will allow service providers in Australia and the United States to respond to lawful orders from the other country without fear of running afoul of restrictions on disclosure, and thus provide more access for both countries to providers holding electronic evidence that is crucial in today’s investigations and prosecutions.”

CLOUD stands for Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data and could go a long way towards facilitating overseas investigations, while still observing civil liberties.

The CLOUD Act will go beyond mutual legal assistance to aid international partners by giving them access to electronic information held by American companies. According to the DOJ, the CLOUD ACT creates an alternative expedited approach and will fix ’delays’ with the MLA.

In response to the DOJ’s statement, Minister Dutton said, “Current processes for obtaining electronic information held by service providers in other countries risk loss of evidence and unacceptable delays to criminal justice outcomes. When police are investigating a terrorist plot or serious crime, such as child exploitation, they need to be able to move forward without delay, but within the law—and the CLOUD Act strikes exactly that balance. This is the way of the future between likeminded countries. We have some way to go before the agreement is finalised, but once in place it will mean service providers based in the United States can respond directly to electronic data requests issued by our enforcement agencies under Australian law for data critical for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of serious crime.”

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