Police and intelligence agencies are to be given accelerated access to electronic communications sent by terrorists, serious crime gangs and white-collar criminals, under a new agreement between the U.S. and the UK.
According to the Financial Times, this deal which is the first-ever bilateral data access agreement, was signed on Thursday by Priti Patel, UK home secretary, and William Barr, U.S. attorney-general.
It will include U.S. technology companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter to hand over the content of emails, texts and direct messages to British law enforcement bodies, and require the same of UK companies holding information sought by U.S. investigators.
It usually takes police and security services from six months to two years to request and access electronic data but officials believe that the new agreement will reduce this process to “weeks or even days”.
Ms Patel said the historic agreement would “dramatically speed up investigations, allowing our law enforcement agencies to protect the public.”
However, despite the new arrangements, it will still be impossible for officials to read encrypted messages sent on platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
The deal is subject to approval from the Congress or the House of Commons, so is not expected to come into force until early next year.