5G, the updated version of 4G connectivity, coupled with the EU’s new personal data regulations will make it harder to track criminals.

That’s the view of Gary Barton, technology analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData.

The comments follow the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation’s (Europol) 2018 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report.

“Much of the debate surrounding 5G has focused on whether the average mobile phone user really needs 5G speeds. However, one aspect of 5G that has not received much attention is how it will be seized upon by the murkier side of the global population,” Barton explained.

“Cyber-crime is a raging battle front and perhaps, before 5G becomes widely available, governments and regulators should consider how criminals may use the technology.”

Barton points to the 2018 IOCTA report, and suggests that it shows 5G technology will ‘inhibit attribution and lawful intercept’ of criminals’.

“The primary reason for this is that the underlying virtualization technology needed to deal with the complexity and bandwidth of 5G makes it much harder to identify and locate individual users.

“4G technology gives each user a unique identifier. Conversely, 5G technology only allocates temporary identifiers.”

To circumvent the new problems in tracking criminals which law enforcement may face, the technology analyst suggests that artificial intelligence may offer a way for the police and security services to overcome the challenge before the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into effect next year.

“This technology will take time to develop and the GDPR laws designed to protect individual privacy mean that the data bases required to support these processes may themselves be illegal,” he said.

While the 5G upgrade may make criminal tracking more difficult, it does improve direct security benefits for everyone else.

“Companies and public sector bodies will have more options for encrypting data, making any potential breaches less likely and less damaging.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that use 5G will also support improvements to other aspects of security such as CCTV and object tracking.”

Barton pointed to the recent challenges with regards to new technologies and privacy, citing the proposed ‘Snoopers Charter’, which drew much public criticism and, the Investigatory Powers Act that subsequently passed through the UK Parliament, which “only gained the backing of a majority of British MPs after concessions to privacy were made.”

But too much data protection also has its consequences, he suggests.

“It may be that the EU (and, after Brexit, the UK) will need to consider revisions to GDPR once 5G goes live across Europe.”