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UK-US Data Access Agreement: First Year of Use

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

The first duty of any Government is to keep the United Kingdom and its people safe. As the Department responsible for public safety and national security, one of our key priorities is ensuring our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have access to the tools, capabilities and data they need to ensure public safety. The groundbreaking UK-US data access agreement (“the agreement”) is one of these tools.

The agreement allows UK agencies to submit requests for content of communications directly to communications service providers, including social media platforms and messaging services, located in the United States. This must be for the purpose of investigating, preventing, detecting, and prosecuting serious crime. This has allowed our agencies access to more data, more quickly than ever before.

Since the agreement entered into force in October 2022, the UK has made more than 10,000 requests to these US companies. All of these requests have provided UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies with critical data to tackle the most serious crimes facing UK citizens including terrorism; child sexual exploitation; drug trafficking; and organised crime.

The direct benefits derived from data provided under the agreement to UK agencies have been across the full spectrum of serious crime. This has included:

identifying the location of illegal firearms suppliers and their locations for storing weapons. This led to arrests and also the seizure of cash and heroin found at the same site;

supporting high-priority child sexual exploitation investigations, which has resulted in the safeguarding of vulnerable children from harm and the arrest of those suspected of committing offences against children;

providing UK law enforcement with the information to locate and arrest an individual suspected of murder who had been attempting to abscond from the UK;

identifying a boat being used to traffic class A drugs, leading to the seizure of over 1.5 tonnes of class A drugs;

enabling the investigation of an organised crime group engaged in the laundering of cash obtained through the sale of non duty-paid alcohol in the UK; and

advancing broader law enforcement operations linked to preventing gang violence and the purchase and supply of illegal firearms.

These outcomes would not have been possible without the critical data provided under the agreement.

It is clear that the access to data the agreement provides is crucial in protecting our children and the wider public from harm. My officials will continue to work closely with operational partners over the coming years to maximise the benefits the agreement provides and ensure His Majesty’s Government are able to continue to protect the public and keep the country safe. I also welcome continued engagement and support from the communications service providers on this important issue.

[HCWS152]