Tuesday, 01 October 2019 10:36

New deal will give UK access to Facebook, WhatsApp data

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New deal will give UK access to Facebook, WhatsApp data Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A new treaty between the US and the UK to be signed this month will make it mandatory for American social media companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp to hand over information to British police, security services and prosecutors, a report claims.

The Times reported that the data access agreement had been arrived at after four years of hard lobbying by the UK.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who will sign from the British side, has warned social media companies about the possibility that they may end up aiding anti-social elements.

Right now, the British security services can obtain data only if there is need for emergency disclosure due to a threat to life. Data can also be obtained under the mutual legal assistance treaty but this takes time.

The report said under the new treaty, requests for data could be submitted to a judge, magistrate or any other independent authority. The commissioner of investigatory powers will oversee these requests.

As part of the agreement, Britain has pledged that it would not target people in the US, while the US has agreed not to target Britons.

Additionally, there is agreement that any data the US obtains from British companies cannot be used in cases that would attract the death penalty, unless there is specific permission from the UK.

The Times quoted former Brexit secretary David Davis as saying: "The simple truth is that I’m afraid the US has a habit of using to the maximum extraterritorial laws to promote its own causes."

Richard Walton, a former head of counter-terrorism at London's Metropolitan Police, said: “US tech giants have been inadvertently putting a veil over serious criminality and terrorism. It has tilted the balance in favour of criminals and terrorists. This is very welcome, it will make a big difference.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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