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Access to e-evidence: Inevitable sacrifice of our right to privacy?


What do you do when human rights “get in the way” of tackling crime and terrorism? You smash those pillars of your democratic values - the same ones you are supposedly protecting. Give up your right to privacy, it is a fair price to pay for the guarantee of your security! This is the mantra that, during the past decades, we have heard populist politicians repeat over and over again – never mind that gambling with our rights actually helps very little in that fight. One of the bargaining chips in the debate on privacy versus security is access to e-evidence. E-evidence refers to digital or electronic evidence, such as contents of social media, emails, messaging services or data held in the “cloud”. Access to these data is often required in criminal investigations. Since the geographical borders are often blurred in the digital environment, investigations require cross-border cooperation between public authorities and private sector. Thorough police investigations are indeed of utmost importance. However, the access to people's personal data must be proportionate and necessary for the aim of the investigation and provided for by law. In a similar way that the police cannot enter your home without a court warrant, they are not supposed to look into your private communications without permission, right? Not really. The EU is working towards easing the access to e-evidence for law enforcement authorities. The plan of the European Commission is to propose new rules on sharing evidence and the possibility for the authorities to request e-evidence directly from technology companies. One of the proposed options is that police would be able to access data directly from the