Policy Analysis


The MLAT system was designed for the 20th century and struggles to cope with the pace and complexity of data transfers across multiple jurisdictions. There is uncertainty about when data can be shared, with whom, and on what terms, and it all happens with very little transparency or oversight. This is a problem for law enforcement who want to catch criminals, but also for users who are concerned about protecting their privacy and other important rights.

This section aims to become a repository of useful information and analysis on MLATs and the way in which they apply to online records. These papers kickstart the discussion about what is wrong with the current MLAT system and how it could be reformed.

Introductory and general information can be found on the FAQ page.

What is wrong with the MLAT system?

It is often stated that the system for sharing online records internationally in criminal matters is broken. However, behind this apparent agreement is a collection of assumptions that we are all talking about the same system and the same problems. This discussion paper identifies key problems with the system in order to kick-start an informed, creative process for generating solutions.

What are the solutions to the MLAT problem?

MLAT reform needs to be a wide-ranging suite of initiatives, led by governments, companies, and civil society. Reforms should aim to build an efficient, effective system of international sharing of online records for criminal matters. Such a system can only be achieved through safeguarding human rights and promoting transparency, certainty, and accountability. Moreover, human rights are better protected by a rights-respecting mutual legal assistance system than the status quo, which often defaults to informal cooperation mechanisms, which have fewer procedural protections and are less transparent.

This paper aims to capture recommended reforms that have already been proposed, as well as to generate new ideas for solutions. It is aimed at the small but dedicated group of individuals within government, civil society, and the private sector who work on these issues and are keen to improve it.

Options for MLAT and law enforcement cooperation reform?

This paper provides both domestic and international policy suggestions that promote human rights, efficiency, and clarity in MLATs and law enforcement cooperation. The suggestions are for business and government leaders desiring more effective, rights respecting systems for sharing records in criminal matters.