As UK NGOs fight against mass spying, EU proposes stronger privacy protections for citizens

The European Commission has set out a proposal today that would increase the privacy for all EU citizens and their digital communications. The proposal also tackles spam, the so called “cookie provision” and other digital issues, in an effort to further develop the EU’s Single Digital Market.

The proposals outlined today aim to streamline and strengthen the privacy rules that all 500 million European citizens benefit from. One of the changes to legislation involves offering the same privacy protections that phone calls and text messages get, to services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Gmail, iMessage and others. Up until now only 'traditional' telecommunications benefitted from those protections.

Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market explained:

Our proposals will deliver the trust in the Digital Single Market that people expect. I want to ensure confidentiality of electronic communications and privacy. Our draft ePrivacy Regulation strikes the right balance: it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate.

Similarly, the Commission’s proposals aim to offer the same level of protection to message content and metadata alike saying both have a “high privacy component”. Unless consent is given by users, companies will need to anonymize this data or delete it if it’s not needed for billing purposes.

However, that’s not to say companies will be left out in the cold. Once the data is properly anonymized or consent is given, the operator can then provide data for other services and charge for those. For example, a telecom operator could provide data to something like the public transport authority, showing which parts of town are busiest.

Today’s proposals also target spam, banning the use of hidden numbers for marketing callers, and letting users sign up to “do-not-call” lists. The new rules also touch on the so-called “cookie provision” altering the way users give consent, but also streamlining some of the regulation.

On a day when civil rights activists are raising money to challenge the UK government and its mass spying directives, such efforts by the European Commission looking to enact stronger privacy protections for its citizens stand in stark contrast to the British government's measures. Whether they’re actually implemented as such though, remains to be seen.

Source: European Commission

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