Fb, WhatsApp and Google face tough new privacy guidelines under EC suggestion

EC vice-president for digital single market, Andrus Ansip, proposes tough new privacy rules under ePrivacy Directive revision

Messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Gmail will face tough new rules on the tracking of users under a revision to the ePrivacy Directive proposed by the European Commission on Tuesday.

The new legislation seeks to reinforce the right to privacy and control of information for European citizens, with messaging, email and voice services – such as those supplied by Facebook, Google and Microsoft – forced to guarantee the secrecy of dialogues and metadata across time, place and other variables of those dialogues.

Unless it's crucial for billing or alternative functions listening to, bugging, intercepting, scanning or the saving of communications will not be enabled without the permission of the user. Companies must require the explicit authorization of users before having the capability to utilise their data for marketing purposes, which most use to fund services provided free of charge to end-users.

Andrus Ansip, vice president for the single digital marketplace, said: “ Our propositions will provide the trust in the Digital Single Market people anticipate. I'd like to make certain secrecy of solitude and electronic communications. Our draft ePrivacy Regulation strikes the right balance: it provides a higher level of protection for consumers while enabling businesses to innovate.”

The rules governing the setting and usage of cookies, which now require approval for many functions and has resulted in a cookie warning appearing on a site when seeing for the first time, are being simplified. The EC hopes to remove the overload of cookie warnings.

But “privacy intrusive” cookies will need approval before being placed on a user’s machine.

The proposals certainly will demand advertising calls use a specific prefix just for promotion calls or to show their phone number, and also ban nonconsensual and unsolicited electronic communication.

MEP and former vice-president of the European Commission, Viviane Reding, welcomed the suggestion but warned that examination of the exemptions regarding content and metadata was demanded. She said: “I salute the extension of the extent to over the top services like WhatsApp, the acknowledgement of the typical principles of secrecy and earlier authorization, and also the many consumer safeguards affecting spam and unsolicited direct marketing communications.”

The EC’s proposition looks to close the perceived regulation gap between conventional telecoms businesses and mainly US-based internet communications firms. It expands a few of the rules regulating telecoms operators to so-called over the top services, while also enabling telecom firms to make use of customer metadata – such as the duration and location of calls – to provide added services and make more money, something they are barred from doing under the present rules.

The telecoms industry said the suggestions were still stricter for them than web companies. Director general of the European telecoms lobby ETNO said: “Unlike others, Lise Fuhr, telcos risk being kept from expanding consumer choice by using location and traffic data for big data analytics, Internet of linked services that are driving and Things.”

Online advertisers also warned that too strict rules would undermine the power of numerous sites provide services that were free and to finance themselves. Yves Schwarzbart, head of policy and regulatory matters in the Internet Advertising Bureau, said: “It will especially hit those businesses that … find it most challenging to speak straight to end users and what I am talking about by that is tech firms that run in the background and facilitate the buying and selling of marketing, as an alternative to the ones that the user directly participates with.”

Online advertising creates £10bn ($12bn) of sales for publishers and content creators in great Britain alone, by the IAB.

Before becoming law, the proposal needs approval in the European Parliament and member states, It's placed to join the necessary update to data protection voted through under the GDPR, that'll apply to great Britain from 25 May 2018, despite the Brexit procedure.