Treaties Committee supports ratification of CLOUD Act Agreement

THE Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has recommended the Australian Government ratifies the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime (CLOUD Act Agreement).

Committee Chair, Josh Wilson MP said, “If certain conditions are met, the CLOUD Act Agreement would allow Australian authorities to seek an Order under Australian law to obtain data related to a serious offence from communications service providers that operate under the jurisdiction of the United States, and vice versa.

“The CLOUD Act Agreement would provide an agreed administrative mechanism so that providers in the receiving country can comply with Orders without the necessity of law enforcement or intelligence agencies relying on mutual legal assistance arrangements, while still requiring certain steps to be followed for the CLOUD Act Agreement to be properly invoked," Mr Wilson said.

The committee agreed that current processes for obtaining data from United States (US) communications service providers under the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process can be cumbersome and not necessarily suited to modern communications, data storage, and cloud computing. The CLOUD Act Agreement would complement but significantly improve on the current MLAT process for the acquisition of data held by US communications service providers.

The committee did, however, examine a range of issues with the CLOUD Act Agreement, including implications for civil liberties, reporting on and oversight of Orders, and consultation during negotiations.

The committee encouraged the Australian Government to be mindful that consultation, reporting, and oversight were critical integrity elements that should be applied appropriately where surveillance or other incursions into privacy are involved.

The report can be found on the Committee website, along with further information on the inquiry.



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