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EU considers new powers to access data held by tech companies

Law enforcement agencies in the EU could be given new powers to access data held by technology companies to aid their terrorist investigations, according to plans being considered by the European Commission.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Commission had outlined three possible legislative options to representatives of the national governments of the 28 countries that make up the EU at a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The most extreme option proposed would see law enforcement agencies given the power to access data directly from the servers of technology companies in "emergency" situations, EU justice commissioner Věra Jourová said, according to Reuters. Jourová said "additional" privacy safeguards would accompany new powers of that kind.

Under another option being considered, authorities in one EU country would be given the power to request access to data held by technology companies based in another EU country without having to first ask the authorities in that member state, according to Reuters.

Alternatively, the Commission could seek to force technology companies to hand over data on a cross-border basis when requested to do so by authorities in another EU country, the news agency said.

The Commission is expected to bring formal legislative proposals either later this year or in early 2018, Reuters said. The type of data that could be accessed under the new powers envisaged has yet to be determined, it said.

Jourová said her "preference" is to support the collection and use of personal data "as an extraordinary measure for extraordinary threats, for high gravity criminal offences such as terrorism", according to the Reuters report.

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