EU Ready to Hit Whatsapp, Skype with Stricter Security Rules

EU Ready to Hit Whatsapp, Skype with Stricter Security Rules

Back in August, the European Union announced plans to extend some of its telecom rules to online service providers. Under the proposed laws, instant messaging and Internet voice-call services would face similar security and privacy requirements to those governing SMS text messages and mobile calls.

This week, Reuters has shared new information it obtained from a draft document on the subject. Web services will have to guarantee the confidentiality of communications and obtain users’ consent to process their location data, according to the draft, which mirrors similar provisions included in an upcoming data protection law.

Telecom firms have long complained that companies like Facebook and Microsoft fall outside of the EU Commission’s regulations, despite offering similar services. This means they had complete control over who had access to their consumer data. The telecom firms have been campaigning for these rules - known as the e-privacy directive - to be repealed or extended to everyone.

A European Commission spokeswoman declined to comment on the draft when contacted by Reuters but said the aim of the review was to adapt the rules to the data protection regulation which will come into force in 2018.

What did we learn from the document?

The Commission has sought to simplify the provisions for cookies. Up until now, telecom companies have been barred from using customer data to provide additional services. They will now be able to use this data as long as they have the consumer’s consent.

It also removes the obligation on websites to ask visitors for permission to place cookies on their browsers via a banner if the user has already consented through the privacy settings of the web browser.

According to Reuters, the draft says:

"If browsers are equipped with such functionality, websites that want to set cookies for behavioral advertising purposes may not need to put in place banners requesting their consent insofar as users may provide their consent by selecting the right settings in their browser.

"While such banners serve to empower users, at the same time, they may cause irritation because users are forced to read the notices and click on the boxes, thus impairing internet browsing experience.”

The proposal is expected to be unveiled in January.

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