For many decades, as a condition of holding a telecom license, nearly every country has required telecommunications and Internet service providers (collectively “communications service providers” or CSPs) to cooperate with investigations by law enforcement agencies (LEAs), including with LEA requests for lawful intercept (LI) of communications.
Until recently, such licenses and associated regulation imposed specific requirements to build network capabilities to support LI only on a small number of infrastructure operators and mass market voice service providers. Now, driven by the ongoing migration from traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) services to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services (which pose genuine challenges for traditional LI), many countries are adopting and implementing increasingly detailed and costly requirements on many CSPs to build network capabilities that support LI at the demand of LEAs.
Unfortunately, some current approaches to LI capability regulation, involving broad LI mandates on all or most CSPs, threaten the development of an innovative, competitive communications market. These approaches can impose significant costs, technological challenges and regulatory uncertainty on CSPs (including by using existing inadequate LI technical standards), and should be consistent with legal obligations such as those related to information security, privacy and human rights. These issues impact upon businesses across sectors and geographies, both as users and as service providers.
To address these challenges, there are specific practical approaches that can provide LEAs with all or most LI capabilities that they reasonably require, while minimizing unnecessary adverse effects on CSPs and the communications market. As detailed in this policy statement (with eight specific recommendations), these practical approaches seek to balance the interests of LEAs, CSPs, business users and consumers, and to ensure a level playing field for all CSPs.
• Preserving law enforcement capabilities in an Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled world
• Ensuring that law enforcement needs are consistent with other important legal obligations related to information security, human rights and privacy as well as the goals of promoting innovation, competition, economic development and international trade
• Practical recommendations for achieving consistency