EU has proposed new regulations that will subject internet-based services to tighter grips. The new policies that target American internet telecom giants like Facebook’s WhatsApp and Microsoft’s Skype aim to force these corporations to abide by similar rules governing traditional telecom operators across Europe.
According to The Financial Times, the drastic refurbishment of Brussel’s regulations is due in September 2016.
The European Commission says WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, WeChat, LINE and many other over-the-top services are fast replacing traditional voice calling and old-school text messaging, however, they are not currently subjected to same rules as the traditional telecom operators. That’s why the Commission has proposed a set of security and confidentiality provisions that online players will be required to abide by. The executive body argues that the technologies used on these services have evolved, but EU’s online rules have not evolved to cover up.
Immediately the Commission is done with the proposals, the European Parliament and member states are expected to proceed to the negotiation table, which will also see uptight lobbying from telecoms and internet groups. The sector has seen some fiercely lobbying in Brussels, state representatives taking on one another. Recently, the nation champions have faced leading internet organizations like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook more directly.
If implemented, the regulations will give local telecom regulators room to assert more control over the operations of these companies which are mainly based in the United States. Under the new powers, the authorities will be able to compel these corporations to have emergency service numbers. However, the rule will not touch on calls like Skype-to-Skype, which do not use a number- despite complaints by rivals on the same. However, players such as WhatsApp, Viber, and WeChat will be affected since they depend on phone numbers.
European Commission to review EU online privacy laws
The Commission will also separately review EU’s online ‘ePrivacy’ law later this year as part of a wider plan to increase the broadband speed across the bloc. The commission will look into how online corporations relate with rival traditional telecoms and how the web services can monetize customer’s communication data.
The new controls will require services like WhatsApp and Skype to tighten their customers’ data security while abiding by the confidentiality controls, which states how they deal with requests by security agencies.
There have been complaints by big telecom groups in Europe about the loose laws. French’s service provider Orange, leading telecom companies in Britain and Spanish telecom powerhouse Telefonica, have complained for years now about the rules that they claim favor the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, and Google.
Even as EU overhauls the rules, some European countries like France are expected to set rules on national basis sooner. French telecoms regulator, Arcep, is expected to make a decision in September which will dictate whether internet-based corporations, including Google, Viber, WhatsApp, and Skype, will be obliged to register as a telecom service providers.