The United States and Australian governments brought into force the Agreement on Access to Electronic Data for the Purpose of Countering Serious Crime on January 31.

This agreement will see authorities in both partner nations able to obtain electronic data from service providers stored in the other country in a more timely manner.

Department of Justice
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This will help both countries to address serious crimes such as terrorism and child sexual abuse with more international cooperation.

The agreement was first signed on December 15, 2021, and is supported by the US' Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act and Australia's Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

“We have limited hate crime laws in Australia, but it’s another area that, as a government, we are interested in looking at,” Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said during his visit to Washington.

“It’s a shared concern between us and the Biden administration to do more to deal with hatred in our communities, to push back against Islamophobia, and to push back against antisemitism wherever we see it.”

The original 2021 agreement states that it was motivated by the parties' "mutual interest in enhancing their cooperation for the purpose of protecting public safety and combating serious crime, including terrorism.

Serious crime is defined in the agreement as being an offense punishable by a "maximum term of imprisonment of at least three years."

The agreement applies to "covered providers," definite in the agreement as "any private entity to the extent that it: (i) provides to the public the ability to communicate, or to process or store computer data, by means of a Computer System or a telecommunications system; or (ii) processes or stores Covered Data on behalf of an entity defined in subparagraph (i)."

Covered providers retain the right to raise legal objections if they do not believe a proper application of the law has been used.

The agreement notes, however, that the use of data obtained through this channel and then used to prosecute must first see the consultation of the US authorities to ensure it doesn't infringe on the right to freedom of speech. This includes "unauthorized disclosure of information" in the context of journalistic activities, racial vilification or harassment, advocating terrorism or genocide, and advocating or inciting violence when harm isn't imminent or actual.

The agreement is set to remain in force for a five year period, but can be terminated by either party with one month's notice.