EU telecoms firms slam proposed tweaks to EU privacy rules on WhatsApp, Skype

FILE PHOTO: A logo of WhatsApp is pictured on a T-shirt worn by a WhatsApp-Reliance Jio representative during a drive by the two companies to educate users, on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, October 9, 2018. Picture taken October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s telecoms industry on Thursday slammed proposed tweaks to planned EU rules governing Facebook’s WhatsApp and Microsoft unit Skype that would tighten the rules faced by telecoms providers to use electronic communications metadata.

The planned EU rules subject WhatsApp and Skype to the same rules as telecoms providers.

The bloc’s 27 countries have struggled to find common ground on the ePrivacy regulation drafted by the European Commission in 2017 because of disagreement on rules for cookies tracking users’ online activities crucial for targeted advertising, and consent requirements.

Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, shared its proposed tweaks with other EU countries on Wednesday evening.

The document seen by Reuters reduces the legal grounds for telecoms providers to use electronic communications metadata for other purposes or to further process the data, in a blow to the telecoms industry looking to use network location data for smart transport services as a potential money-spinner.

Lobbying group ETNO, whose members include Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefonica, and mobile operators group GSMA were scathing about the German proposal.

“Germany’s proposed text fails to bridge the gap between protecting privacy and confidentiality and stimulating innovation in European service providers,” they said in a joint statement.

They urged other EU countries not to back the proposal unless it allows them more freedom to use metadata for legitimate purposes and for further compatible processing.

The bloc will have to agree on a common stand before thrashing out details of the rules with the Commission and European Parliament.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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