Global leaders are preparing to agree how police access digital evidence which may physically be located in another jurisdiction.
The amendment to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime will allow signature states’ police forces to receive digital evidence in criminal investigations in a timely manner – something those forces complain is currently a major problem.
Since the opening of the convention in 2001, the importance of internet media to criminal investigations has grown significantly.
While data can traverse borders effortlessly over the internet, police have complained about struggling to follow it due to conflicting laws about whether they can access data which may physically reside in data centres outside of their jurisdiction.
The head of the Council of Europe’s cybercrime division, which led the development of the treaty, Alexander Seger spoke to Sky News to explain the need for the protocol.
He said: “The problem is, when you’re looking for evidence on a computer system, that evidence could be held on a single server in another country, or it could move between servers, or the data itself could be fragmented and held in different jurisdictions.”
This makes it very difficult for the police to address a single judicial authority with the legal ability to demand that this evidence be handed over.
Mr Seger also said: “Let’s assume that law enforcement in the UK arrests a drug trafficker in London, and at the time of the arrest, the suspect’s smartphone is open – can you access that data?
“Assume they use Gmail, can you access that, or any of their cloud accounts, or are you intruding on the territory of another party? Are you seizing data in another territory?”
“This isn’t clear, and while some law enforcement agencies will do this, others have received judicial criticism for it,” said Mr Seger, and police do not want to risk evidence being found to be inadmissible in court.
At the moment, when police forces around the globe need to work with those in another jurisdiction, they use Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, or MLATs.
However, the MLAT process, which allows evidence and information in criminal investigations to be shared, has been criticised for being extremely slow.
Mr Seger said that even something as simple as receiving subscriber data – finding out which individual was using a particular communication service – was difficult when it should be routine.
Source: Sky News