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5G Will Make it Harder to Track Criminals, Warns Europol

Dominique Adams

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The lack of tools to lawfully carry out surveillance of criminals on 5G networks could hinder investigations, Europol director has warned.   

5G could seriously hinder police investigations, director of Europol Catherine De Bolle has warned, as many of the tools that work with 4G will not work with the more advanced network.

Speaking to Reuters, she explained that 5G networks spread data across networks in a way that makes it difficult to track. De Bolle is calling on European Union leaders to let the agency become more engaged in policy conversations about the adoption of 5G technology.

The ability to track criminals, she said, “is one of the most important investigative tools that police officers and services have”. Techniques and tools developed to operate with 4G are useful to law enforcement when investigating criminals and in locating kidnapping victims, she added.

She said that police were not involved early enough for business and policy talks around 5G. “The biggest risk is that we are not enough aware of the developments on a technological level and we have to be ahead on this,” she told Reuters.

“So we need to be at the table where they discuss about the technological development, where they discuss standardisation.” However, discussions are now underway with tech firms and governments on how best to address the issue, she said.

The GSMA, the mobile industry body, expressed surprise at her comments as criminals could still be tracked using 5G, it said.

“Law enforcement agencies have been actively involved in the global 3GPP initiative that is responsible for setting the standards for 5G – this includes setting the standards for enabling lawful interception.

“The mobile industry and anyone involved in the development of 5G are acutely aware of the need for lawful access to telecommunications as we deploy 5G networks,” it said.

De Bolle’s comments were made ahead of Europol’s latest report, Do Criminals Dream of Electric Sheep, which outlines the agency’s vision of how technology will impact its ability to do its job.

The report highlighted threats such as criminals using encryption, hacking, 3-D printing, self-driving cars, and drones.

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Dominique Adams

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