On April 19, the Global Network Initiative joined with Privacy International, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Oxford Internet Institute to host a public panel discussion: “Cross-Border Data Requests and the Investigatory Powers Bill”, at the UK Houses of Parliament.

Panelists examined the challenges for both law enforcement and ICT companies under the current legal frameworks for cross-border data sharing and discussed the principles that could underpin a reformed mutual legal assistance (MLA) system. Reforming MLA is a key step toward new international frameworks that will allow law enforcement to legally and transparently access the data they legitimately need to prosecute crime, and ensure robust safeguards for user privacy at the same time.

Speakers Keir Starmer QC MP (UK Labour), Gregory Nojeim (Senior Counsel, Center for Democracy and Technology), Professor Ian Brown (Oxford Internet Institute), Emma Ascroft (Director Public Policy, Yahoo!), and Caroline Wilson Palow (General Counsel, Privacy International) noted that the UK had an important opportunity to amend the Investigatory Powers Bill(IPB) so that it did not create an international conflict of laws situation for local and global companies. Without an amendment, the IPB could result in other governments asserting their own extra-territorial jurisdiction, or enacting forced data localization, mandated back doors or the undermining of encryption. The speakers discussed the implications of the proposed US-UK Data sharing treaty, which will serve as an important model for other bilateral data sharing agreements with the US and third countries.

Attendees at the event included MPs and Lords, officials from the UK Foreign Office, Cabinet Office, and the National Crime Authority, civil society organizations, academics, and technology companies.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is currently going through scrutiny by the UK Parliament, with the Public Bills Committee due to complete its phase of this examination process by May 2nd.

The GNI commissioned a report by Professor Andrew K Woods on the reform of mutual legal assistance regimes, which was published in 2015.

GNI would like to thank Lord Patel of Bradford OBE for generously hosting this event.