European Union Cracks Down On WhatsApp And Skype Data Privacy

by Linda Olson August 17, 2016, 1:07
European Union Cracks Down On WhatsApp And Skype Data Privacy

The European Commission is planning to make web-based communication services subject to the same laws as telecoms providers - with major implications for online security, privacy and encryption.

The Financial Times reports that telecoms companies such as Orange and Telefónica have always been unhappy at the lack of regulation that applies to Google, Facebook and Microsoft when it comes to communication.

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

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the initial draft proposal on the new regulations is due in September, the EC is still "looking into" whether or not OTT services are "functional substitutes for services provided by traditional telecoms operators".

Under the existing "ePrivacy Directive", telecoms operators have to protect users' communications and ensure the security of their networks and may not keep customers' location and traffic data. "Paradoxically, the ePrivacy proposal is a threat to end-to-end encryption and thus to users' privacy", said Christian Borggreen, worldwide policy director for the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), one of the lobby groups that called for the repeal.

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"The EU proposal allows governments to challenge end-to-end encryption which today provides security and confidentiality of Europeans' communications".

"Therefore, any expansion of the current ePD (ePrivacy Directive) should not have the undesired effect of undermining the very privacy it is seeking to protect", the company said.

The Financial Times has seen documents which detail plans for these firms, which are mostly based in the United States, to be required to abide by the same "security and confidentiality provisions" as traditional telecom companies.

The Commission could also force the companies to allow with users to take with them a copy of their content, such as e-mails and messages, when they switch providers. The Commission has undertaken a review of the directive to see whether it needs to be amended or should continue in its current form.

The European Commission has said it does not necessarily plan to treat all communications services the same for all purposes.

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