EU privacy czars mull privacy regulation for Skype, WhatsApp

Eurocrats, tech sector face off over future of ePrivacy Directive

The tussle over the future of the ePrivacy Directive is warming up: while tech and telcos want the directive relaxed or scrapped, the European Union is considering extending it to cover services like WhatsApp and Skype.

Last month, the GSMA published a joint industry statement asking Europe to scrap the e-Privacy Directive; Europe's response could well be to extend it.

The GSMA's open letter offered up fairly predictable bromides about “simplifying and streamlining regulation”.

The group also said getting rid of Europe's privacy protection would benefit consumers, by giving them a “consistent and meaningful set of rules” protecting their personal data.

According to Reuters, what Europe now has in mind is quite the opposite of what the techs and telcos want. The wire says it's seen an internal document proposing to extend the ePrivacy Directive to over-the-top (OTT) providers like Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

It quotes an Orange-authored submission to the EU saying “Unlike telcos, OTT (web-based) are global players that are allowed to commercially exploit the traffic data and the location data they collect”.

That would be crimped by an extension of the ePrivacy Directive, even if the tech sector reckons its end-to-end encryption offers better security than telco customers get.

The GSMA's note included the obligatory appeal to the 5G rollout – yes, the wrong privacy protection will stop you getting new stuff! – and said “sector-specific rules on privacy are no longer able to address the challenges of the digital age”.

Making the ePrivacy Directive cover everything would mean it's no longer sector-specific, but The Register supposes this isn't the outcome the tech sector wants.

The EU is also considering forcing services like Gmail to allow users to take their inboxes with them if they switch services. ®


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