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EU seeks terror e-evidence faster from US internet firms

[STRASBOURG] The EU on Tuesday proposed new rules to help member states obtain email and other digital evidence of terror or criminal suspects from US and other internet firms within hours or days.

The European Commission, the EU executive, said member country requests to service providers like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple had risen 70 per cent in the last few years but complained the process can take months.

The EU's justice commissioner Vera Jourova told a press conference in Strasbourg, France, that many prosecutors complained of facing problems obtaining electronic evidence under the current rules "almost daily".

"Today we propose new rules to make it easier and faster for police and judicial authorities to access the electronic evidence they need in investigations to prosecute and convict criminals and terrorists," Ms Jourova said.

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Under the proposed law, service providers would be expected to respond within 10 days, or six hours in an emergency, when judges or prosecutors in an EU member state ask for emails, text messages or other electronic communications.

"This is a true revolution in the EU system of judicial cooperation in criminal matters," Ms Jourova said.

"With the new proposal the prosectors will be able to contact the companies directly regardless of where those companies are based and where they store evidence." The Czech politician said the new rules would ensure the right to personal data protection, including requiring judges to evaluate requests for more sensitive data.

The rules were unveiled during a session of the European Parliament, which, along with the member states, must still debate and adopt them.

The warrant known as a European Production Order would work much faster than the existing European Investigation Order, which takes around 120 days to handle cross-border requests between EU member states.

And it would be many times faster than the Mutual Legal Assistance procedure, which takes an average of 10 months between an EU country and an outside country like the United States.

Under the proposal, all providers offering services in the EU would have to name a legal representative to handle such requests even if their headquarters are outside the bloc.

The new EU legislation follows the US adoption last month of the CLOUD Act, which was designed to streamline the process for law enforcement seeking digital evidence.

But it has been roundly criticised by civil liberties and digital rights activists.

AFP

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