US Signs on to New Electronic Evidence Protocol in International Cybercrime Agreement 

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The new protocol is officially being added to the Budapest Convention—an arrangement between 66 member-states—after four years of negotiations.

The United States has signed onto a new protocol under the first international treaty on the prevention of cybercrime that would, among other things, allow law enforcement to seek information directly from service providers with access to electronic evidence that can be used to catch criminals. 

The new protocol is “specifically designed to help law enforcement authorities obtain access to such electronic evidence, with new tools including direct cooperation with service providers and registrars, expedited means to obtain subscriber information and traffic data associated with criminal activity, and expedited cooperation in obtaining stored computer data in emergencies,” reads a press release from the Justice Department Thursday. “All these tools are subject to a system of human rights and rule of law safeguards.”

Representatives are signing onto the “second additional protocol” to the convention Thursday at the Council of Europe, amid an international conference on enhanced cooperation and disclosure of electronic evidence in Strasbourg, France. According to the press release, officials from the U.S. departments of Justice and State spent almost four years negotiating the addition to the convention, which was adopted back in November, 2021.

“The Budapest Convention is a truly remarkable international instrument. Its technology-neutral approach to cybercrime has created an enduring framework for cooperation that ensures law enforcement has the tools they need to respond to new criminal methods,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Downing, who signed the agreement on behalf of the U.S. government. “It is our collective vision that every country that is serious about fighting cybercrime and that provides for the protection of human rights should become party to the Budapest Convention. The Convention strikes the right balance between imposing obligations on nations to have robust laws and capabilities and providing the flexibility necessary for nations with different legal systems to join.”

China and Russia, are notably not signed on to the Budapest Convention. The Justice Department release noted that the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs majorly funds the Council of Europe Cybercrime Program to increase the ranks of the treaty’s member countries. 

The Budapest Convention was established in 2001. The first additional protocol added to the treaty concerned “the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.” 

“As cybercrime proliferates, electronic evidence is increasingly stored in different jurisdictions,” Justice said. “The United States remains committed to the Budapest Convention as the premier international legal instrument for fighting cybercrime.”