ICO police cloud steering released below FOI

The Data Commissioner’s Place of work (ICO) has equipped Police Scotland with advice on the suitable map to win its cloud deployments adhere with police-specific recordsdata safety authorized pointers, nonetheless notes that the steering “does now not constitute acclaim for the roll-out or assurance of compliance”.

Launched by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) below freedom of recordsdata (FOI), the advice sent to Police Scotland – which comes over a three hundred and sixty five days after Computer Weekly published its Digital Proof Sharing Functionality (DESC) pilot used to be rolled out with most indispensable recordsdata safety concerns in January 2024 – offers extra element on the ICO’s stance that UK police can legally use hyperscale public cloud infrastructure.

While the regulator previously confirmed to Computer Weekly in January 2024 that it believed UK police can legally use cloud companies that send sensitive legislation enforcement recordsdata out of the country with “appropriate protections” in set apart, it declined to specify what these protections are.

The advice released below FOI now clarifies that the ICO believes compliance might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be executed via the use of interrelated world agreements, particularly the UK’s Worldwide Data Switch Agreements (IDTA) or the Addendum to the European Union’s Fashioned Contractual Clauses (SCCs).

The ICO advice – signed by deputy commissioner Emily Keaney – extra defined the forms of recordsdata safety due diligence it believes are required by police forces to win definite the guidelines flows are well mapped and accepted, and additionally clarifies the pathways in which the US government can win admission to the policing recordsdata via the Cloud Act; which permits US authorities to win admission to recordsdata from dialog suppliers working in its jurisdiction below definite circumstances.

On the opposite hand, recordsdata safety experts derive puzzled the viability of those routes, claiming it is now not definite how the ICO has concluded that these controls – which are rooted within the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) suggestions – can additionally be utilized to strict legislation enforcement-specific suggestions specified by Section Three of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018, and whether these mechanisms can really prevent US government win admission to.

Despite forces having a survey to the ICO for steering on the matter, the regulator used to be additionally definite that it is up to the guidelines controllers themselves (i.e. the policing our bodies alive to in DESC) to determine and will most doubtless be found to a resolution for themselves if these protections would really win the guidelines storage and processing taking set apart trusty. “The ICO really acknowledged that ought to you count on the advice and it appears to be like to be hideous, or you are chanced on to derive breached the Act, they’ll and shall peaceable prosecute,” acknowledged neutral safety handbook Owen Sayers, who the steering used to be disclosed to below FOI. “So, it’s about as helpful as a sunroof in a submarine.”

Correct kind tasks

Commenting on the ICO advice, trusty and protection officer at Initiate Rights Community Mariano delli Santi acknowledged that whereas policing our bodies derive trusty tasks as controllers to behavior all of their very grasp due diligence – and might per chance per chance per chance successfully be expected to develop so – the regulator additionally has an duty to oversee how public authorities are using these programs. “It doesn’t really seem treasure the ICO is scrutinising world recordsdata transfer concerns in this space,” he acknowledged, adding that the ICO should make a choice an active curiosity in pushing policing our bodies to notice the legislation. “How are they supervising? What audits derive they implemented of public authorities relying on these programs?”

Essentially based mostly fully off the same space of FOI disclosures, Computer Weekly previously reported particulars of discussions between Microsoft and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), wherein the tech big admitted it cannot suppose the sovereignty of UK policing recordsdata hosted on its hyperscale public cloud infrastructure.

Specifically, it showed that recordsdata hosted in Microsoft infrastructure is robotically transferred and processed out of the country; that the guidelines processing settlement in set apart for DESC did now not screen UK-specific recordsdata safety requirements; and that whereas the company has the flexibility to win technical changes to win plug recordsdata safety compliance, it is most intelligent ready to win these changes for DESC companions and now not diversified policing our bodies because “no-one else had requested”.

The paperwork additionally salvage acknowledgements from Microsoft that world recordsdata transfers are inherent to its public cloud structure, and that limiting transfers in step with individual approvals by a Police Drive – as required below DPA Section 3 – “cannot be operationalised”.

Computer Weekly contacted the ICO about every facet of the FOI disclosures – together with whether Microsoft’s admissions about recordsdata sovereignty would substitute its advice – on the opposite hand it declined to acknowledge to any specific questions about the basis that it is averted from doing so by the “pre-election duration of sensitivity”.

On the opposite hand, a spokesperson for the ICO acknowledged: “That is a complex enlighten with various factors to reduction in mind, so we derive taken the indispensable time to learn about and provide our stakeholders with linked steering. We reduction in mind that legislation enforcement companies might per chance per chance per chance per chance use cloud companies that job recordsdata exterior the UK where appropriate protections are in set apart.

“Data safety legislation is a chance-based mostly fully framework which requires all organisations to be to blame for the non-public recordsdata they job,” they acknowledged. “We request all organisations, together with legislation enforcement companies, to accurately assess and manage any dangers linked with their very grasp processing of personal recordsdata. We now derive fastidiously considered compliance in this space and continue to derive advice to legislation enforcement companies across the UK on using technologies in a capacity that complies with recordsdata safety legislation.”

Ongoing police cloud concerns

Since Computer Weekly published in December 2020 that dozens of UK police forces were processing over a million contributors’s recordsdata unlawfully in Microsoft 365, recordsdata safety experts and police tech regulators derive puzzled varied parts of how hyperscale public cloud infrastructure has been deployed by UK policing, arguing they’re currently unable to conform to strict legislation enforcement-specific suggestions laid out within the DPA.

Originally of April 2023, Computer Weekly then published the Scottish government’s Digital Proof Sharing Functionality (DESC) provider – reduced in size to body-archaic video provider Axon for transport and hosted on Microsoft Azure – used to be being piloted by Police Scotland no matter a police watchdog elevating concerns about how the use of Azure “would now not be trusty”.

Specifically, the police watchdog acknowledged there were a gigantic selection of diversified unresolved excessive dangers to recordsdata topics, corresponding to US government win admission to via the Cloud Act, which successfully offers the US government win admission to to any recordsdata, kept anyplace, by US corporations within the cloud; Microsoft’s use of generic, moderately than specific, contracts; and Axon’s incapacity to conform to contractual clauses spherical recordsdata sovereignty.  

Computer Weekly additionally published that Microsoft, Axon and the ICO were all mindful of those concerns earlier than processing in DESC started. The dangers identified lengthen to every public cloud map dilapidated for a legislation enforcement motive within the UK, as they’re governed by the same recordsdata safety suggestions.

In January 2024, in response to questions from Computer Weekly about whether it additionally makes use of US-based mostly fully hyperscale public cloud companies for its grasp legislation enforcement processing capabilities, the ICO sent over a bundle of DPIAs 495 pages of paperwork detailing a gigantic selection of programs in use by the ICO.

According to these paperwork, the ICO is explicit that it makes use of a range of companies that sit down on Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure for legislation enforcement processing capabilities. On the opposite hand, it declined to derive any commentary on its trusty basis or conducting such processing, and the extent to which its grasp use of those cloud companies has averted it from reaching a formal space on whether the use of those companies conflicts with UK recordsdata safety suggestions.

The ICO advice

The regulator’s look that the use of hyperscale public cloud companies by UK legislation enforcement our bodies might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be trusty if “appropriate protections” are in set apart is printed in emails sent to the SPA on 2 April 2024.

In the correspondence, the guidelines regulator particulars two most indispensable pathways that they really feel would enable DESC to conform to Section Three’s stringent transfer requirements.

“First, where UK GDPR adequacy regulations notice, most steadily, it is doubtless you’ll per chance be ready to count on Part 75(1)(b) that you simply derive assessed the total circumstances and determined that appropriate safeguards exist to present protection to the guidelines; or second, by relying on a Part 75(1)(a) ‘trusty instrument containing appropriate safeguards for safety of personal recordsdata’ which binds the recipient of the guidelines,” acknowledged the ICO’s deputy commissioner for regulatory protection.

“We reduction in mind that the IDTA or the Addendum to the EU SCCs (the ‘Addendum’) are capable of meeting this requirement. On the opposite hand, you are to blame for conducting due diligence to be definite that within the explicit circumstances of your transfer, and particularly the most steadily sensitive nature of Section 3 recordsdata, the IDTA or Addendum does provide the neutral stage of safety.”

While the IDTA is a trusty contract printed by the ICO to safeguard personal recordsdata being sent exterior of the UK to definite third countries, the SCCs are contracts produced by the European Commission to present protection to recordsdata flows from the EU.

In power since March 2022, UK organisations can both use the IDTA as a standalone doc, or use the “UK Addendum” to the EU SCCs to win the “restricted transfers” compliant with UK recordsdata safety legislation. On the opposite hand, Sayers acknowledged this mechanism can back with UK GDPR compliance, and does now not lengthen to Section Three of legislation enforcement processing.

“It’s excellent-searching that the ICO has referred to UK GDPR adequacy of their steering, and now not Law Enforcement [LED] adequacy” he acknowledged. “While many countries win pleasure from GDPR adequacy from the UK and Europe, very few derive LED adequacy, and it’s the latter that would be required for Policing capabilities. It’s now not definite how the regulator has made this kind of simple mistake.”

Worldwide transfers

The ICO added that whether or now not a global transfer is being made to the cloud provider provider as a processor, the nature of cloud companies formula that it is “very seemingly” there will most doubtless be extra world transfers by the cloud provider provider to its sub processors, which is the responsibility of the policing our bodies as controllers to derive mapped out.

“Your responsibility (below Part 59) is to be definite that the cloud provider provider most intelligent engages out of the country sub-processors together with your authorisation and is providing you with ample ensures that it has in set apart appropriate technical and organisational measures which might per chance per chance per chance be ample to stable that the processing will (a) meet the requirements of [Part 3] and (b) win definite the safety of the rights of the guidelines area,” it acknowledged.

“As fragment of your due diligence, for those sub-processors which are now not in a rustic with the advantage of a UK GDPR adequacy legislation, it is doubtless you’ll per chance derive to enjoy that the cloud provider provider’s contracts with its sub processors salvage a Part 75 appropriate safeguard. In the same map that you simply’d also win restricted transfers below Section 3, a cloud provider provider will most doubtless be ready to count on the IDTA or Addendum, equipped they develop a TRA [Transfer Risk Assessment].”

Computer Weekly contacted the ICO, Police Scotland and Microsoft for confirmation on whether any transfer chance assessments had been implemented, nonetheless did now not receive a response to this level.

Additional recordsdata

The advice additionally offers extra recordsdata on how the due diligence tasks of policing our bodies might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be utilized when getting into staunch into a contract with cloud provider suppliers.

It says, as an illustration, that police forces ought to peaceable derive in mind whether an IDTA or an Addendum is contained within the contractual commitments; whether the TRA implemented confirms it offers an ample stage of safety; and whether the processor is obliged to update the controller about changes to its checklist of sub-processors.

“We’re mindful that clarifying amendments to Section 3 DPA were tabled below the Data Protection and Digital Data Bill, supposed to derive better trusty plug wager in terms of world recordsdata transfers for controllers and processors transferring personal recordsdata for legislation enforcement capabilities,” it added.

On the opposite hand, in step with Nicky Stewart, a broken-down ICT chief at the UK government’s Cupboard Place of work, if legislation enforcement recordsdata controllers corresponding to Police Scotland are relying on SCCs to derive equal safety to keeping all the guidelines within the UK, “shall we as successfully neutral send all the guidelines to the US”.

Noting a gigantic selection of trusty challenges in opposition to using SCCs as a transfer mechanism for European recordsdata to the US (in consequence of legislation such because the Cloud Act that enables the US government to win admission to company recordsdata), she added that the steering “appears to be like very inclined”.

Computer Weekly requested the ICO about its reliance on UK GDPR mechanisms and diversified claims made relating to the steering, nonetheless obtained no specific responses to those parts.

The Cloud Act

A notice-up e mail from the ICO’s regional supervisor for Scotland additionally offers extra readability and element on how the US government might per chance per chance per chance per chance doubtlessly extract UK legislation enforcement recordsdata from Microsoft or Axon.

They acknowledged the first pathway is for a US public authority to serve a qualifying right US repeat on an organisation which falls within US jurisdiction: “Such orders require the organisation to derive recordsdata in its possession, custody, or reduction watch over no matter where on this planet that recordsdata is kept.

“Data processed by a UK company might per chance per chance per chance successfully be accessed via this pathway by an repeat served straight on the UK company (if US jurisdiction might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be established) or circuitously by an repeat served on the US mother or father company (if it can per chance per chance even be established that the US mother or father company has the indispensable possession, custody, or reduction watch over of the requested recordsdata).”

They added that the second pathway is for a US authority to serve an repeat on a UK dialog provider provider below the UK-US Data Discover entry to Settlement: “This Settlement incorporates extra safeguards, particularly stopping win admission to to recordsdata relating to to contributors positioned within the UK and the use of obtained recordsdata in death penalty cases.”

They necessary that whereas the ICO does now not reduction in mind that policing our bodies covered by Section Three should end using cloud companies thanks to concerns over the Cloud Act and recordsdata safety compliance, the Act does now not alter organisations’ recordsdata safety tasks.

“Whichever pathway is dilapidated, UK recordsdata safety legislation offers safeguards for contributors and every request ought to be considered personally on its merits,” they acknowledged. “For every and every pathways, in enlighten, recipients of requests might per chance per chance per chance per chance fetch they should open a dialogue with the US public authority making the request (or with the US Department of Justice’s Place of work of Worldwide Affairs for orders made below the UK-US DAA), as an illustration, in repeat to account for or test the legality of the request and win plug their response complies with UK recordsdata safety legislation.”

Generic advice

Commenting on the Cloud Act parts of ICO advice, Delli Santi extra described it as “generic”, and necessary the efforts of Dutch public sector our bodies to proactively title, diagram and mitigate varied dangers linked with the use of Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint and Azure Active Directory.

A DPIA on the use of those companies commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice acknowledged that though Microsoft mitigated a gigantic selection of dangers identified by the evaluation, the very fact that the guidelines might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be ordered via the Cloud Act formula “there’s a excessive chance for the processing of sensitive and special classes of recordsdata … as prolonged because the organisation cannot reduction watch over its grasp encryption keys.

“Even if the likelihood of incidence is extremely low, the affect on recordsdata topics in case of disclosure of their sensitive and special classes of personal recordsdata to US legislation enforcement or safety companies might per chance per chance per chance per chance even be extraordinarily excessive,” it acknowledged. “That is thanks to the lack of notification and the lack of an efficient formula of redress for EU electorate. This chance even occurs when these recordsdata are exclusively processed and kept within the EU.”

For Delli Santi, given the entirety that is public info about how these programs work, it raises the query of “why don’t they [the ICO] neutral straight-up behavior and audit? To me, it appears to be like treasure there’s various smoke, so maybe you’d like to derive to take a look at if there’s one thing burning.”

While the SPA DPIA for DESC explicitly necessary that the encryption keys are held by Axon, moderately than Police Scotland, the ICO advice does now not existing the relaxation relating to the need for organisations to reduction watch over their very grasp keys; or the very fact that encryption is now not considered to be a linked or effective safeguard below Section Three (because it does now not allow for “supplementary measures” that would enable recordsdata to be sent to jurisdictions with demonstrably lower recordsdata safety requirements, such because the US).

Computer Weekly requested the ICO whether it has conducted any audits, to boot to the ICO’s look on encryption, nonetheless obtained no response on these parts.

For the avoidance of doubt, figure it out

While the ICO advice already explicitly acknowledged that police forces should develop their very grasp due diligence on whether the IDTA or the Addendum would win their transfers via hyperscale public cloud structure compliant, the notice-up e mail outlining particulars of the Cloud Act takes it extra by stating that its advice ought to peaceable now not be taken as ICO approval or assurance of the deployment.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the advice we derive equipped is below our standard responsibility to derive advice and red meat up, and does now not constitute acclaim for the roll-out or assurance of compliance below recordsdata safety legislation,” it acknowledged. “The advice does now not compromise our skill to utilize our regulatory powers in some unspecified time in the future ought to peaceable any infringements come to gentle.”

Computer Weekly requested the ICO relating to the provide of its advice, and whether the ICO sought its grasp trusty advice to roar its steering for DESC, nonetheless obtained no response on these parts.

Computer Weekly additionally requested whether it is realistic – given the guts-broken express of due diligence at some stage within the felony justice sector in terms of cloud deployments – to request police forces to accurately assess the dangers and win plug all Section Three requirements are being met, nonetheless obtained no response on this level.

Commenting on the steering, Stewart acknowledged that outlining the correct protections whereas placing the total trusty chance reduction on Police Scotland “doesn’t seem to be particularly worthwhile”.

When it comes to mountaineering out of the distress, she acknowledged that whereas there’s now not a easy fix, there are alternatives, which encompass both backtracking out of Microsoft deployments and migrating all the guidelines over to Section Three-compliant cloud suppliers, or derive Microsoft be ready to deploy solutions which might per chance per chance per chance be “successfully wholly sovereign”, and which are ready to buffer US government win admission to and “notice the sun” arrangements.

On the opposite hand, she added that it’ll clearly pressure up value: “Either map, it’s going to be extra costly, and I suspect essentially what here’s boiling all the formula down to is the associated price to Microsoft to win concessions, or to the police forces.”

Sayers broadly agreed, nonetheless necessary that making the indispensable changes to Microsoft’s terms of provider and technical platform would now not be trivial. “I raised this with Microsoft in emails in Q1 2019, and laid out all the steps they’d should make a choice to conform to the DPA,” he acknowledged.

“They elected now not to win those changes, nonetheless as a change to count on Police Forces doing their diligence to confirm the suitability or in some other case of their companies. It’s taken a whereas for somebody to request them the neutral questions, nonetheless clearly now the SPA derive executed so, Microsoft were open that their provider doesn’t meet the requirements at the present time.”

Scottish biometrics commissioner Brian Plastow – who issued Police Scotland with a formal recordsdata survey over DESC in April 2023 and previously shared concerns about unauthorised win admission to to Scottish legislation enforcement recordsdata in an open letter printed in October 2023 – acknowledged the continuing uncertainty spherical police cloud deployments would derive the support of a formal investigation by the ICO.

“I could per chance per chance per chance welcome an investigation by the ICO into whether the explicit legislation enforcement processing arrangements for DESC by Police Scotland and DESC companions in Scotland, which contains biometric recordsdata, is fully compliant with UK recordsdata safety legislation,” he acknowledged.

“Precept 10 of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner’s Code of Insist authorized by the Scottish Parliament in November 2020 additionally requires Police Scotland to be definite that biometric recordsdata is protected in opposition to unauthorised win admission to and unauthorised disclosure in step with UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018,” acknowledged Plastow.

“This capacity that truth, compliance with the ICO requirements is a key compliance characteristic of the Scottish Code of Insist. On the opposite hand, most intelligent the ICO has the statutory authority to resolve compliance (or now not) with UK recordsdata safety legislation, and it would appear that the continuing stage of uncertainty spherical DESC is such that it would derive the support of specific investigation by the ICO.”


Given the ICO’s grasp use of Azure for legislation enforcement processing, Computer Weekly requested whether this had an affect on its resolution-making, nonetheless obtained no response on this level.

Sayers acknowledged that given the ICO is a regulator, it goes to peaceable derive never offshored Section Three recordsdata from the UK, “but their very grasp DPIAs demonstrate they knew they were doing so even earlier than this Microsoft recordsdata used to be obtained”, he acknowledged. “They’ve repeated the same mistake as a wonderful deal of diversified UK public sector our bodies by assuming that because Microsoft derive some UK datacentres, this style the guidelines really stays in, and is supported from, those places. That’s now not how Public Cloud really works.”

Sayers added that the ICO should acknowledge questions about what steps it has taken to address this processing themselves, to boot to how they came to the conclusion that a hyperscale cloud might per chance per chance per chance per chance meet their needs given they’re constrained by Part 73(4) of the DPA from sending this style of recordsdata exterior of the UK to an IT provider provider.

On the opposite hand, whereas the ICO necessary the policing our bodies fervent as recordsdata controllers are to blame for guaranteeing DESC compliance sooner than its roll-out, the regulator previously let the pilot paddle ahead with live personal recordsdata whereas in fleshy look of the dangers.

Even if this has been public recordsdata since Computer Weekly at the muse reported on DESC in April 2023, the new correspondence disclosed to Sayers offers extra element on why the ICO and Police Scotland did now not undertake a formal session job, no matter each and every parties being mindful of the guidelines safety concerns. This might per chance per chance successfully be covered in an upcoming Computer Weekly legend.

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