Sunday, July 21, 2024

Europol Concerns Over Privacy Enhancing Technologies Challenge Lawful Interception

A new position paper argues that Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) used in Home Routing are making it difficult for law enforcement to intercept information during investigations lawfully. 

Home Routing allows a user’s communication to be routed through their home network even when they are abroad, as the data is subject to the laws of the home country, which may have stricter privacy protections, and not accessible by the local law enforcement where the crime is suspected to occur. 

Investigations are made more difficult as a result, and potential solutions are proposed in order to guarantee that law enforcement will continue to fulfill their mission of protecting citizens and gathering evidence. 

Home Routing allows a telecom provider to continue servicing customers traveling abroad. The customer’s communication data (calls, messages, data) remains on the home network instead of switching to the visited country’s network.

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This prevents law enforcement agencies in the visited country from accessing the data through legal requests, potentially hindering investigations involving foreign SIM cards. 

The issue applies to both foreign visitors using their own SIM cards and domestic users with foreign SIM cards.

Cooperation agreements between service providers can be established to disable Privacy Enhancing Techniques (PET) in Home Routing for specific situations. 

A privacy-enhancing technology, creates a loophole for criminals to evade interception by law enforcement because domestic interception orders are ineffective when users’ data is routed through their home network while abroad.  

Issuing a European Investigation Order is a slow and cumbersome alternative, taking up to 120 days and requiring cooperation from foreign service providers, which creates an imbalance between criminals who can exploit this gap and law enforcement’s ability to perform their duties. 

Europol is calling for a solution to a technical challenge hindering law enforcement, where mobile roaming technology, specifically SMS home routing, makes it difficult to intercept communications within a country’s jurisdiction when a suspect is using a foreign SIM card. 

They emphasize the need to find a balance that allows legal access to evidence while upholding secure communication standards by proposing considering operational, technical, privacy, and policy aspects to achieve this equilibrium.  

It acknowledges the need to anticipate the impact of technological advancements on law enforcement by emphasizing the importance of balancing technology’s positive societal contributions, like privacy protection, with the need to prevent criminal exploitation. 

This exemplifies Europol’s dedication to navigating this complicated landscape and ensuring the general public’s safety in the digital age.

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