Home routing hampers evidence gathering – Europol

Home routing is “severely hampering” law enforcement’s ability to access crucial evidence, Europe’s top law enforcement agency has warned.

Europol said that criminals had been abusing the practice to evade law enforcement, creating an “uneven equilibrium” that prevents the police from carrying out their public duties.

Home routing is a service allowing a customer traveling internationally to have their communications, such as calls, messages, and data, processed through their home network rather than the network of the country they are visiting.

As a result, the service provider abroad cannot deliver communication data to law enforcement as a result, according to Europol, creating a loophole that malicious actors exploit.

“Once home routing is deployed, any suspect using a foreign SIM card can no longer be intercepted,” the agency said.

Since a national interception order cannot be enforced across borders, the police can rely on a European Investigation Order but a response could take up to 120 days – too long in emergency situations.

“In addition, being dependent on the voluntary cooperation of a foreign service provider for the exercise of national investigatory powers is undesirable,” Europol said.

It added: “A solution must be found that enables a country’s authorities to lawfully intercept the communications of a suspect within their territory, while not impeding secure communications disproportionately.”

While Europol describes it as a “technical” issue, it comes amid a larger debate on privacy rights in the EU, where controversial proposals to mass scan private communications on encrypted messaging apps such as Signal and WhatsApp are being considered.

While the aim of the proposals is to make it easier for law enforcement to detect child sex abuse material, the motion has been slammed by critics as “Orwellian.” Concerns have also been raised that this would create a “backdoor” exposing communications to hacking or interference by third parties.