Europol has released a position paper highlighting the challenges that Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) in Home Routing pose to law enforcement’s ability to gather evidence. These technologies are making it harder for authorities to intercept communications legally during investigations.

Understanding Home Routing

Home Routing allows telecommunication providers to continue serving their customers even when they travel abroad. This means that when you use your phone in another country, your calls, messages, and data are still processed through your home network rather than the local network of the country you are visiting.

However, if PET is enabled in Home Routing, foreign service providers cannot deliver communication data to law enforcement, even with a judicial request. This becomes a problem when a suspect uses a foreign SIM card, making interception impossible. This issue arises whether the suspect is a foreign national in another country or a local resident using a foreign SIM card. The only exception is when there is a cooperation agreement between domestic and foreign service providers to disable PET in Home Routing.

Why This is a Problem

Criminals are exploiting this loophole to evade law enforcement. This makes it difficult for authorities to perform their duties effectively. National interception orders cannot be enforced across borders, and European Investigation Orders can take up to 120 days to process—too long for urgent cases. Relying on foreign service providers’ voluntary cooperation for national investigations is also problematic.

Moving Forward

Europol aims to spark a discussion on this technical issue that is severely limiting law enforcement’s ability to gather crucial evidence. A balanced solution is needed that allows lawful interception within a country without overly compromising secure communications.

The position paper suggests considering various aspects, including operational, technical, privacy, and policy issues, to address this challenge effectively.

Digital Challenges

This paper is part of Europol’s series on anticipating technological changes and their impact on security. Europol stresses the importance of balancing technological advancements for privacy protection with preventing their misuse by criminals.

For more information, you can explore Europol’s publications on Digital Challenges.

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