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E-Privacy Consultation: preliminary report published

The European Commission has published its initial findings of its public consultation on the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC (see our previous blog post on the consultation here).

The ePrivacy Directive applies to electronic communications services and needs to be updated in the light of the substantial changes to be made to EU data protection laws by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

The purpose of the consultation is to gather feedback on the performance of the ePrivacy Directive since its implementation in 2002, and to seek views on potential reform.

The consultation gathered a total of 421 replies from stakeholders, including private citizens, civil society organisations and consumer groups, and businesses in the information and communications industry. The preliminary findings show that:

  • Most of the respondents (76%) said that the e-Privacy Directive has fallen short of its objective of ensuring full protection of privacy and confidentiality of communications. This was attributed to its scope being too limited, its rules leading to differences between Member States, and insufficient compliance and enforcement.
  • A large majority of individual and civil society respondents (83%) agreed that there is value in having special privacy rules applicable to the electronic communications sector. The picture is different for industry respondents, with less than a third agreeing that special rules were needed.
  • 76% of individuals and civil society respondents, but only 42% of industry respondents, believed that the scope of the ePrivacy Directive should be broadened to cover the so-called over-the-top service providers (OTT) when they offer communications services, such as VoIP or instant messaging.
  • As for cookies, 77% of citizens and civil society respondents said that businesses should not have the right to prevent access to their services if users refuse the storing of cookies on their terminal equipment. However, around the same percentage of industry respondents disagreed with this statement.

WAB comment

The initial results show the contrasting opinions of consumers who use communications services, and the businesses which provide them. The European Commission has said that it is committed to reviewing the ePrivacy regime in order to reinforce trust and security in digital services, and to ensure a high level of protection for people and a level playing field for all market players. It will be interesting to see how the European Commission balances these competing interests, while at the same time aligning the ePrivacy regime with the approach taken in the GDPR.

The proposals for reform are expected later this year. Meanwhile, the European Commission will analyse the replies of the consultation and publish its conclusions in the autumn.

Click here for further information on the preliminary report.

Disclaimer: This article is produced for and on behalf of White & Black Limited, which is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales with registered number 06436665. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The contents of this article should be viewed as opinion and general guidance, and should not be treated as legal advice.

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