EU targets WhatsApp and Skype with tougher privacy rules

Clampdown aimed at increasing user privacy

WhatsApp, Web app, Messaging

The EU is looking to extend privacy rules to cover messages and calls made over the internet. This could see greater scrutiny over services such as WhatsApp and Skype.

The European Commission is looking to tighten legislation concerning messaging apps as part of an overhaul of telecoms industry laws. This is despite an open letter by the GSMA asking Europe to scrap the e-Privacy directive.

According to a Reuters report, the Commission is looking to go the other way and extend the directive to providers such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

According to another report, this time by the FT, internal EC documents revealed the supranational body is preparing to issue proposals for the regulation of services provided by the likes of Facebook and Microsoft. The proposals will also include regulation of online services that enable users to dial fixed and mobile phone numbers.

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A submission to the Commission from Orange said that unlike telco, "OTT (web-based) are global players that are allowed to commercially exploit the traffic data and the location data they collect".

European telcos have been calling for such changes for years.

Nathalie Vandystadt, spokesperson for the Digital Single Market at the European Commission, said in a statement that the Commission was working on an update of EU telecoms rules under its Digital Single Market strategy.

"The upcoming reform of the EU telecoms framework should incentivise and leverage more private investment in next generation networks, provide regulatory predictability and the right conditions for all operators to invest," she said.

She added that the Commission is looking into to what extent people can consider OTT services like WhatsApp and Skype to be functional substitutes for services provided by traditional telecoms operators.

Vandystadt said there were moves to increase the scope of current EU rules to "ensure adequate levels of consumer protection and ensure that regulation does not distort competition. This does not necessarily mean treating all communications services the same for all purposes."

The telecoms rules overhaul is due to be published in September.

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