top of page

EU worries over the possibility of losing wiretapping powers

5G telecoms networks could render obsolete the “lawful interception” techniques that police is traditionally using, unless the European Union and national governments take action. This was revealed in internal EU documents obtained by EDRi member Statewatch, that has published a new analysis explaining the issues and calling for a public debate.

“It is unsurprising that EU officials are concerned about the possible loss of telephone-tapping powers,” said Chris Jones, a researcher at Statewatch. “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.” On 7 June 2019, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) held 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 published 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. For example, the IMSI code – used to identify an individual device – will be encrypted, meaning “the security authority authorities are no longer able to locate or identify the mobile device,” according to Europol. 5G networks will also be able to detect false “base stations