Europol Warns of Home Routing Challenges For Lawful Interception

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Europol has released a position paper today highlighting significant challenges posed by privacy enhancing technologies (PET) in home routing to lawful interception by law enforcement. 

The report emphasizes that home routing, which allows telecommunications service providers to maintain services for customers traveling abroad by routing communications through the home network, creates barriers for law enforcement when intercepting communication data under judicial orders.

This is because home routing ensures that international travelers’ communications are processed by their home network rather than the network of the country they visit. 

As a result, Europol warned, foreign service providers cannot deliver communication data to local law enforcement if PET is enabled. This limitation affects both foreign nationals using their SIM cards in other countries and local citizens using foreign SIM cards domestically. 

In fact, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) cannot intercept such communications unless there is a cooperation agreement that disables PET in home routing between the involved service providers.

According to the paper, criminals are exploiting this loophole to avoid detection, which undermines law enforcement’s ability to protect the public. The current alternative, issuing a European Investigation Order, is often too slow, taking up to 120 days, which is impractical in emergency situations. 

Furthermore, relying on the voluntary cooperation of foreign service providers complicates the enforcement of domestic investigatory powers.

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Europol’s position paper seeks to initiate a debate on addressing this technical issue that hampers law enforcement access to vital evidence. The organization argues for a balanced solution that enables lawful interception without disproportionately impeding secure communications. 

The paper outlines several operational, technical, privacy and policy considerations that should be part of the societal response.

The broader context includes Europol’s ongoing efforts to anticipate technological innovations and their impact on security. The agency also stressed the importance of balancing technical advancements that protect privacy with the need to prevent their misuse for criminal activities.

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