You are reading it here first: Today, the United States and Australia have formally started negotiating an executive agreement under the American CLOUD (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data) Act which will allow the two countries to demand electronic data from tech companies based in the other country without legal barriers, the US Justice Department told MediaNama in an email. American Attorney General William Barr and Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton are negotiating the agreement. This development comes at the heels of the US-UK executive agreement, which was the first executive agreement signed under the CLOUD Act. British Home Secretary Priti Patel signed that agreement on behalf of the United Kingdom.

As per Barr, “This agreement, if finalized and approved, will allow service providers in Australia and the United States to respond to lawful orders from the other country without fear of running afoul of restrictions on disclosure, and thus provide more access for both countries to providers holding electronic evidence that is crucial in today’s investigations and prosecutions.”

Dutton acknowledged the delays rampant in the current MLAT (mutual legal assistance treaty): “Current processes for obtaining electronic information held by service providers in other countries risk loss of evidence and unacceptable delays to criminal justice outcomes. When police are investigating a terrorist plot or serious crime such as child exploitation, they need to be able to move forward without delay, but within the law – and the CLOUD Act strikes exactly that balance.”

Barr, Patel and Dutton had also sent an open letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg on October 4, “requesting” him not to enable end-to-end encryption across its messaging services till backdoor access to governments had been built in. The three nations, along with Canada and New Zealand are a part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance which had, in July 2019, said that tech firms must allow law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communications for the sake of public safety.