05 June 2019
5G telecoms networks could render traditional police "lawful interception" techniques obsolete unless EU and national governments take action, according to internal EU documents obtained by Statewatch, which is today publishing a new analysis explaining the issues and calling for them to be debated in public. 
This Friday (7 June) the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council will hold a discussion on 'Implications of 5G in the area of internal security', a topic taken up in documents produced recently by Europol and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator that Statewatch is publishing alongside the analysis. 
The documents warn that various aspects of the technology underpinning 5G communications networks could make traditional wiretapping methods far more complicated or even render them useless, and will raise significant new challenges for law enforcement agencies to access individuals' data.
Proposals for dealing with the situation range from trying to influence the international bodies responsible for establishing the relevant technical standards; passing new laws (at both national and EU level) to enforce police demands; and ensuring a broader discussion amongst officials both within the EU and beyond, for example with major surveillance powers such as the USA, Australia and Canada.
However, although 5G technologies could limit law enforcement agencies' access to certain types of data, if the hype is to be believed then one of 5G's main functions will be to make possible the generation, storage and sharing of vast tomes of data on individuals, objects, devices and the environment through the 'internet of things'.
The analysis argues that both the possibility of law enforcement agencies losing some of their current powers - at the same time as vast new surveillance possibilities are opened up - should be a matter for public debate.
Chris Jones, a researcher at Statewatch, said:
"It is unsurprising that EU officials are concerned about the possible loss of telephone-tapping powers. However, the very same technologies they are worried about will give law enforcement and security agencies disturbing possibilities for accessing data on individuals in order to track their activities and behaviour. This has to be seen as part of the same issue as the possible loss of 'traditional' wiretapping powers. Rather than secretive attempts to influence standard-setting and law-making, a public discussion is required about the acceptable limits of surveillance and interception powers in light of emerging technologies."
Statewatch office: +44 203 691 5227
chris [at] statewatch.org
The official documents (pdfs) examined in the analysis are:
We welcome contributions to News Online and comments on this website. Contact us.
Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.
Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement. Registered UK charity number: 1154784. Registered UK company number: 08480724. Registered company name: The Libertarian Research & Education Trust. Registered office: c/o MDR, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH, UK. © Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals "fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.