From 14-15 November, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) hosted the third Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on “Lawful Access to Digital Data Across Borders”, jointly organized with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) and the Internet and Jurisdiction Policy Network. This meeting was held in the framework of the CTED/UNODC/IAP Global Initiative on “Strengthening the Capacity of Central Authorities and Counter-Terrorism Prosecutors and Investigators in Obtaining Digital Evidence from Private CSPs in Cross-Border Investigations, with a Particular Focus on Counter-Terrorism Matters”, launched in December 2017, pursuant to resolutions 2322 (2016) and 2396 (2017) and the Addendum to the guiding principles on foreign terrorist fighters (2018).
The third EGM gathered more than fifty experts from different sectors and jurisdictions at UN Headquarters in New York, law enforcement and judicial practitioners from more than fifteen different countries, technical experts, and partners from international and regional organizations including civil society actors from NGOs and academia. Representatives from large and small tech companies based in Asia, Europe and the USA participated in the multi-stakeholder consultations.
The meeting was dedicated to strengthening and facilitating cooperation between law enforcement agencies and communication service providers on cross-borders access to digital evidence to ensure its effective preservation, collection, handling, transfer and admissibility, in accordance with international human rights law and national legislation. The EGM was the opportunity for entities representing various sectors and jurisdictions to express ongoing challenges, voice concerns, identify good practices and advance practical and coordinated solutions to bridge existing gaps in the current international legal frameworks related to electronic evidence.
On the first day, experts discussed the feasibility of standardizing direct requests to communication service providers and provided feedback on a proposed simplified request form developed jointly by Global Initiative partners, EuroMed Police and EUROPOL. On the second day, technical discussions revolved around ways for the Global Initiative to assist communication service providers, particularly small ones, to respond to requests from law enforcement agencies on electronic evidence. CTED’s initiative Tech Against Terrorism has been a partner and facilitator of engagement with the private sector.
On the occasion of the EGM, CTED also held an Informal Briefing for Member States on Friday, 15 November to raise awareness and take stock of the Global Initiative’s activities and deliverables thus far, including the publication of the Practical Guide on Requesting Digital Evidence Across Borders, the related capacity-building activities for practitioners from around the world, and the expanding multi-stakeholder network and strong partnerships it has developed. Discussions also focused on the way forward to strengthen international cooperation and legal access to electronic evidence in counter-terrorism cases.