EU Privacy Changes for 2017

The European Commission has stated that reforms are coming for electronic communications handling in 2017. According to Out-law, a recent study gives some insight into what those changes may be. Rules governing the use of cookies, direct digital marketing, and location data are likely to be included, much to the chagrin of telecom companies. Open discussions about the changes are due to begin in March, so telecoms need to let their opinions known now.

European Council

The EU’s privacy rules are based on the 2002 e-privacy directive. Though it was amended in 2009, plans to update the rules began in 2014, and the European Commission issued this study to help shape the new rules. The directive covers “processing of personal data in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services in public communications networks” within the borders of the EU.

Because of the way the directive is worded, two competing companies may be subject to substantially different rules depending on how they present themselves. The revisions will streamline these rules, and make companies like LinkedIn and Facebook bound by the same rules as businesses operating in the telecommunications industry, including ISPs.

Other revisions include getting the users’ permission to place a cookies on their device, new general rules on data protection, and the processing of location data. That information may not be used without being anonymized or without the user’s consent unless it is crucial in providing a value added service.  Not surprisingly, the UK is not in favor of new data protection rules. Though they may not be the only one, the UK is the most visible country in the EU to oppose these types of changes.

Just as the UN privacy chief suggested, surveillance in the UK is at an all time high. It is no wonder that the UK does not wish to give up any power. Unlike the rest of the EU, they seem to be more focused on protecting the citizens in the name of national security than protecting individual privacy rights. Once the laws are revised, the UK would have to follow them, or need to exit the EU. The question is, are they willing to adopt the European model, or stay in line with the direction of countries like the US? No matter what the future brings, they are likely to be watched on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. At least some governments are interested in protecting citizens’ rights.

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