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European Commission will strengthen privacy in electronic communications

European Commission will strengthen privacy in electronic communications

When you access the web, you often entrust personal information, such as your name, address, and credit card number, to your Internet Service Provider and to the website you are using.  Recent surveys show that personal data matters for a huge majority of Europeans – for 92% of them it’s important that their emails and online messages remain confidential. That‘s why European Commission is proposing new measures to make sure that all people and businesses in the EU enjoy the same level of protection in electronic communications.

On 10 January 2017 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications (Regulation) to replace the 2009 Directive on privacy and electronic communications (Directive). The European Commission‘s draft Regulation aims at reinforcing trust and security in the Digital Single Market by updating the legal framework on ePrivacy. New measures aim to update current rules, extending their scope to all electronic communication providers.

Recent surveys show that personal data matters for a huge majority of Europeans – for 92% of them it’s important that their emails and online messages remain confidential.

At the same time, the proposal aligns the rules for electronic communications with the new world-class standards of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. The Commission is also proposing new rules to ensure that when personal data are handled by EU institutions and bodies privacy is protected in the same way as it is in Member States under the General Data Protection Regulation, as well as setting out a strategic approach to the issues concerning international transfers of personal data.

“The legislation of electronic communication already did not meet the demands of the fast-expanding market, so new proposals will ensure that the privacy of electronic communications will be protected by up to date and effective rules. Regulation will also ensure the right balance: it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate”, – says Attorney at law of ECOVIS ProventusLaw Loreta Andziulytė.

New legislation will increase the protection of people’s private life and also open up new business opportunities. The main proposed changes include:

– New players: privacy rules will in the future also apply to new players providing electronic communications services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype. This will ensure that these popular services guarantee the same level of confidentiality of communications as traditional telecoms operators.

– Simpler rules on cookies: the cookie provision, which has resulted in an overload of consent requests for internet users, will be streamlined. The new rule will be more user-friendly as browser settings will provide for an easy way to accept or refuse tracking cookies and other identifiers.

– Protection against spam: this proposal bans unsolicited electronic communications by emails, SMS and automated calling machines. Marketing callers will need to display their phone number or use a special pre-fix that indicates a marketing call.

Regulation will also ensure the right balance: it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate.

– Communications content and metadata: privacy will be guaranteed for communications content and metadata, e.g. time of a call and location. Metadata have a high privacy component and is to be anonymised or deleted if users did not give their consent, unless the data is needed for billing.

– New business opportunities: once consent is given for communications data – content and/or metadata – to be processed, traditional telecoms operators will have more opportunities to provide additional services and to develop their businesses. For example, they could produce heat maps indicating the presence of individuals.

– Stronger rules: all people and businesses in the EU will enjoy the same level of protection of their electronic communications through this directly applicable regulation;

With the presentation of the above-mentioned proposals, the Commission is calling on the European Parliament and the Council to work swiftly and to ensure their smooth adoption by 25 May 2018, when the General Data Protection Regulation will enter into application. The intention is to provide citizens and businesses with a fully-fledged and complete legal framework for privacy and data protection in Europe by this date.

The release is based on information provided at https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/online-privacy.

Loreta Andziulytė