22nd Oct 2016

Skype and WhatsApp face tougher EU privacy rules

  • The EU wants online messaging services to follow the same privacy rules as telecom companies. (Photo: Alvaro Ibanez)

The EU wants to extend privacy rules to cover calls and messages sent over the internet, subjecting services such as WhatsApp and Skype to much greater regulation.

Tech and telecom industries last month called for the EU to scrap the rules, contained in the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, known as the e-privacy directive.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Telecom companies have long complained that web-based competitors such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook - which offer communications services Skype, WhatsApp and Hangouts - enjoy an advantage because they are allowed to make money from traffic and location data, which telecoms operators are not allowed to keep.

Scrapping the rules would encourage innovation and drive growth and social opportunities, telecoms lobby group GSM Association had said.

Instead, the European Commission intends to bring in everyone under the same rules. According to UK newspaper the Financial Times, the EU executive’s move is an attempt to rein in American companies that dominate the sector, undercutting EU telecoms providers.

Whether the rules will strengthen consumers’ privacy is open for debate. Some internet companies offer end-to-end encryption on their services.

Facebook, which uses full-scale encryption on WhatsApp, said in its response to the Commission's public consultation that extending the rules to online messaging services would mean they could in effect "no longer be able to guarantee the security and confidentiality of the communication through encryption".

They send the new regime would allow governments the option of restricting the confidentiality right for national security purposes.

The commission is due to make an initial announcement in September and present detailed plans for legislative review later this year.

EU and telecoms firms target 5G benefits

As connecting everyday items to the internet is set to become a normality, the EU Commission is trying to develop a 5G network to cope with the extra demands.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity