Lunch Debate at the European Parliament: “Cross-Border Access to E-Evidence: Solutions for a European Approach”

Lunch Debate at the European Parliament:  “Cross-Border Access to E-Evidence: Solutions for a European Approach”

Unity on the aim of the e-evidence dossier, but diverging stakeholder views on the proposed mechanism

On 27th September, MEP Dalton hosted a lunch debate, organised by EuroISPA, at the European Parliament on cross-border access to electronic evidence, bringing together representatives from the Institutions, civil society and industry. The Commission proposal foresees a new system for the pan-European exchange of data between Internet Service Providers and law enforcement authorities to enable them to effectively proceed with criminal investigations requiring information from the online sphere. The far-reaching proposal, to which EuroISPA has actively contributed in the past three years, touches upon a number of sensitive issues in respect to national sovereignty, rule of law and fundamental rights safeguards.

During the debate, representatives from the EU Institutions,  and EuroISPA, presented their views on the file and engaged in discussion with attendees. Deputy Head of the Cybercrime Unit in DG HOME, Cathrin Bauer-Bulst, stated "We need to equip law enforcement authorities with 21st century methods to tackle crime, just as criminals use 21st century methods to commit crime. To meet this aim, the Commission has proposed new tools which would enable competent authorities to gather e-evidence quickly and efficiently across borders, while ensuring robust safeguards for the rights and freedoms of all affected.” Judith Hester, of the Austrian Presidency, highlighted that "In the digital age, a legal basis for direct cooperation with service providers is essential for the protection of the area of freedom, security and justice. Council is intensively discussing aspects concerning fundamental issues, such as the appropriate level and timing of involvement of another Member State. We are focussing on effective legal remedies and the right to information, secure channels of data transmission in addition to cost reimbursement."

Vice-President of EuroISPA, Maximilian Schubert, underscored ISPs’ understanding of judicial authorities’ need for efficient data exchange. However, any new system requires a sound legal basis, taking into account existing fundamental rights safeguards. “An SME exemption with more flexibility in time frames for executing orders received by the ISP is essential. Authentication, integrity and security are paramount. This is vital to maintaining consumer trust, thereby enabling Europeans to optimally profit from ongoing digitalisation”, said the EuroISPA Vice-president.

The discussion following the presentations was centred upon the issues of cost reimbursement, the general question of the necessity of the proposed measures, as well as instances of the real-life significance of the principle of dual criminality, demonstrated by examples from recent international cases.

EuroISPA would like to extend its thanks to the speakers for their remarks and for a thought-provoking discussion. EuroISPA looks forward to continue engaging on this important file towards a mechanism that works for all players in the Internet ecosystem.