Online messaging or videoconferencing services, such as Messenger, WhatsApp or Zoom, will be subject in the European Union to stricter rules for the protection of privacy, according to a project which took a major milestone on Wednesday January 10 .
→ CONTEXT. Personal data: how the European Union wants to protect the communications of Internet users
As expected, the ambassadors of the 27 EU Member States approved a compromise proposal – presented by Portugal, which holds the rotating presidency of the Union – on a text blocked since 2017. “The path (…) has not been easy”, recognized the Portuguese Minister for Infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos. He felt that the compromise was “A good balance between a solid protection of the privacy of individuals and the promotion of the development of new technologies and innovation”.
The draft regulation, which must now be negotiated with the European Parliament, updates the directive “E-privacy” of 2002, which only applied to traditional telecom operators, to take into account the emergence of new players and new electronic communication technologies.
“In general, electronic communications data will be confidential. Any interference, including eavesdropping, monitoring and processing of data by someone other than the user, will be prohibited, except when permitted by the e-privacy regulation ”, says the Council, an institution representing the Member States.
“A number of unanswered questions”
Communication data may be used without the user’s consent, for example for the purposes of prosecuting criminal offenses or preventing threats to public security. Facebook, Google and others may continue to process metadata (information relating, for example, to the schedule of a call and location) if users consent to this and if the information is anonymized.
→ READ. Personal data: can we sell our own information?
“The agreement in Council includes improvements to the (initial) proposal but leaves a number of questions unanswered”, reacted Alexandre Roure, of the CCIA, the lobby of the tech giants in Brussels, which mentions in particular that of knowing when the rules of e-privacy supersede those of the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), in force since 2018.
The proposed regulation e-privacy made by the Commission in 2017 had until then come up against divisions between supporters of strict online privacy protection such as Germany, and countries wishing, such as France, to leave room for maneuver to the forces of order in particular for the fight against terrorism.
The rapporteur of the European Parliament, the German Birgit Sippel (Socialists and Democrats group), expressed fears that the “Industry attempts to undermine” the text “Have borne fruit”. “We now need to examine in detail whether the Member States’ proposals really help to better protect private communications online”, she said in a statement to AFP.