The European Union wants to be able to force US tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft to hand over electronic evidence across borders when investigating serious crimes. The proposed law would apply to any company that does business within Europe, no matter where its data centers are based.

Tech firms argue that such cross-border arrangements would ‘undermine consumer trust in cloud services’ …

Reuters reports that the original scope of the planned legislation was limited to the 28 EU countries, but the union now wants to go further.

The EU executive has previously indicated it wanted law enforcement authorities to be able to access electronic evidence stored within the 28-nation bloc. But the scope of the planned legislation will extend to data held elsewhere, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Digital borders are a growing global issue in an era where big companies operate “cloud” networks of giant data centers which mean an individual’s data can reside anywhere.

There are already arrangements in place for law enforcement agencies to apply for data to be supplied by other countries, known as mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT). However, the EU argues that these haven’t kept pace with the speed at which criminals operate.

European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova told Reuters the current method for accessing cross-border evidence was “very slow and non-efficient” and that law enforcement had to be quicker than criminals.

Critics say that such wide-ranging laws would not only pose privacy risks, but may also conflict with existing legislation.

In the United States, for example, certain companies are prohibited from disclosing information to foreign governments while in Europe itself, consumers’ data privacy is strictly protected and companies are restricted in how they can transfer data outside the bloc.

Some have suggested that the EU has no real expectation of passing such a law, but instead wants to improve its negotiating position when it comes to agreeing a new bilateral agreement with the USA.

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