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Iran Press TV

US, UK spy agencies eying 'reciprocal' online data sharing

Iran Press TV

Fri Feb 5, 2016 10:55PM

The US and the UK are discussing a deal that will allow their spy agencies to ask Internet companies in each others' countries to turn over online records and emails from people under investigation, officials say.

'The proposed agreement, which remains under discussion, would be reciprocal and would require legislation to take effect,' a US Justice Department official said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, The Washington Post cited three US officials as saying that the talks were focused on letting UK intelligence agencies, such as domestic spy agency MI5, demand data for "live intercepts" in inquiries.

According to the report, British agencies might also be able to ask US firms to submit stored data, such as emails.

UK citizens, including criminals, are using US data providers like Google, Facebook and Hotmail to make it difficult for British agencies to get access to data necessary for criminal and counter-terrorism probes, the report said.

The bilateral agreement would 'make cross-border requests for certain electronic communications data for law enforcement and national security purposes more effective and efficient,' a top US official said.

A US government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the country's law bars social media firms from accepting foreign governments' data requests despite the fact that criminal investigations often depend on cross-border communications.

Thus, US companies may face a tough choice: cooperate with foreign agencies and break US law or turn down the request and abide by US law, the source added.

Adam Schiff, a high-ranking US Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Congress should be vigilant on any breach of privacy and civil liberties that may arise, 'including making sure these British orders do not cover US persons or individuals within the US, do not permit bulk collection, and have due process protections that meet high standards.'

The intelligence agencies' surveillance powers have been under scrutiny ever since US whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked details and the scale of snooping by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Secret documents leaked by the former NSA contractor in 2013 revealed that the GCHQ and the NSA had monitored more than 1,000 targets in at least 60 countries between 2008 and 2011 by secretly accessing cable networks carrying the world's phone calls and internet traffic.

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