5G expansion privacy risks

The expansion of 5G mobile technology around the world promises to bring faster downloads and quicker network response times. But also a lot more concerns about privacy.

In the USA 5G will allow for the possibility of more-precise location tracking, as well as the opportunity to collect vast amounts of additional personal data.

Unfortunately, due to the short range, more cell towers will need to be built, meaning that new towers will cover much smaller areas and give more precise location data.

The European 5G Action Plan’s main goal is to make 5G a reality for all citizens and businesses by 2020. 5G will provide virtually ubiquitous, ultra-high bandwidth, and low latency “connectivity” not only to individual users but also to connected objects. It will also be the “eyes and ears” of Artificial Intelligence systems as it will provide real-time data collection and analysis.

A digital European single market, which is what is being envisioned will also enable remote collaboration using VR, online health monitoring, connected and self-driving cars and drone deliveries are all cited as potential new markets enabled by 5G.

Privacy risk and 5G

In the USA, 5G will entail more indoor towers as it doesn’t penetrate walls very well. Towers in shopping malls, big office buildings, hotels and so on, will become a normal thing and will allow for more precise location data. Location is extremely sensitive. It reveals a tremendous amount about data subjects and telecom companies need to be regulated to make sure that they are not using the data as they wish.

It also may be that 5G will make widespread sensor networks possible, on every telephone pole or street corner. Those might detect people doing things.  5G can also be used to track people and if it is not regulated, the selling of location data can become the biggest issues in our generation.

Dr Bellovin advocates for clearer regulation of what carriers can do with location data, which in his opinion should be nothing.

Dr Bostjan Makarovic, Aphaia Managing Partner, believes that European users are generally well-protected by the ePrivacy Directive when it comes to their location data. “5G might not be unique compared to 4G or even widespread wifi networks. But together with IoT sensors, for example, privacy issues are expected to be amplified in the age of 5G.”

At the same time, the European Commission is racing to make 5G available quickly, and pushing for investment in the sector for new tech, but at what cost? Cybersecurity agency such as ENISA, have stated that 5G connections come with a medium to high risk of cybersecurity attacks because there are not enough safeguards in place to make sure the new networks will be secure.

Do you require assistance with GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 compliance? Aphaia provides both GDPR adaptation consultancy services, including data protection impact assessments, and Data Protection Officer outsourcing.

Horlane Mbayo

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