Online messaging and email giants face European Union privacy crackdown

The European Commission wants to introduce measures to fundamentally change how online user data is tracked

The European Commission wants to introduce measures to fundamentally change how online user data is tracked

In the future internet users will only have to decide once whether they want to allow privacy sensitive tracking cookies that e.g. track browsing behavior for advertisers.

This will significantly impact the activities of websites such as Gmail and Hotmail, which under the proposed rules would need to ask for consent before scanning user emails for use in targeted advertising, something they are now able to do without consulting the customer.

The European Commission is now debating new legislation that will overhaul some of the EU e-privacy rules, including the hated cookie consent popups that have ruined the web experience for many users.

The current directive on the right to privacy concerns only traditional long-distance communications operators but the EC insists that it should include the providers of electronic services as well.

However, this is only a proposal now and has to be passed by he EU's Parliament and members before becoming a law.

ETNO and GSMA Europe recognise the European Commission's goal to protect the confidentiality of electronic communications and establish a harmonised framework for electronic communications data.

Online messaging and email services such as WhatsApp (FB.O), iMessage (AAPL.O) and Gmail (GOOGL.O) will face tough new rules on how they can track users under a proposal presented by the European Union executive on Tuesday. Our draft ePrivacy Regulation strikes the right balance: "it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate".

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Cookies required for the operation of an internet experience that do not impact on privacy, such as items in an online shopping cart, will no longer require consent, nor will cookies used to analyse visitor numbers.

"It's up to our people to say yes or no", according to Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the Digital Single Market.

The proposal explains the simplification with: "New rules will allow users to be more in control of their settings, providing an easy way to accept or refuse the tracking of cookies and other identifiers in case of privacy risks".

The EC also proposed that privacy be guaranteed for content of communication as well as metadata such as who was called, the timing, location and duration of the call, as well as websites visited.

The commission is seeking to create a digital single market for data for the world's biggest free-trade bloc of around 500 million people.

Nevertheless, these new rules are only proposals for now and it will take a while before they're finalized and ready to go into effect.

Companies that flout confidentiality of communications rules face fines of up to four percent of their global annual turnover, under the commission's planned e-privacy measures-the same penalty that will be dished out to firms that violate the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into action in April 2018.

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