The telecoms industry has voiced its opposition to proposed changes to European privacy law that would restrict how they could use customer data.
Mobile operators have broadly been supportive of the process to strengthen regulations, which started more than three years ago, because they believe it will result on a more level playing field with over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Skype.
It had been a source of frustration that these services were not subject to the same rules despite the fact these services allow users to make and receive calls and send messages.
This, the industry argued, meant OTT players could encroach on their territory at a time when shrinking sources of traditional revenues such as voice are affecting balance sheets.
European privacy rules
However, creating a consensus between EU member states has proved challenging, particularly on the subject of cookies used for targeted advertising. It is the most recent proposals, submitted by Germany earlier this week, that have attracted the ire of the telco sector.
Reuters says the proposals would reduce the ability of telecoms operators to use communications metadata for any purpose other than to process it. This means it could not be used for other services that could generate revenue.
The European Telecoms Network Organisation (ETNO), whose members include some of the biggest pan-European operator groups said the draft text would put Europe at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world when it comes to the development of digital services.
“We continue to stand behind the objectives of the ePR – a high level of protection of the right to confidentiality of communications and of individual privacy, and the creation of a level playing field between digital services relying on data in the EU,” said the organisation.
“However, we have also voiced from the beginning that the Commission’s proposal fails to provide the flexibility required to support proportionate and responsible data use by European companies and would therefore stymie data-driven innovation and the development of the European data economy.
“The German text reflects a persistent misconception that privacy and innovation cannot coexist. They can and must coexist for Europe to be able to step up and compete in the global data economy. Europe has an opportunity to solidify its global role as a beacon of responsible innovation, but only if policymakers create legal frameworks that enable new European products and services, rather than stifling or prohibiting them from the start.
“We call on Member States to not support the German Presidency’s proposal, which is not fit for future nor European competitiveness, and to continue to work together to secure a framework that is conducive to strengthening the EU’s data economy.”