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EU plans to extend some telecom rules to web-based providers

17 August 2016

The European Commission is preparing to announce a review of its web protectionist rules later this yearT The said rule will include new measures forcing messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp and Skype to follow the same set of rules that telecom companies have to follow.

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.

The Financial Times reports that telecoms companies such as Orange and Telefónica have always been unhappy at the lack of regulation that applies to Google, Facebook and Microsoft when it comes to communication.

The new rules will focus on how services such as WhatsApp comply with requests from security agencies and how companies use customer data.

"We believe that simplifying and streamlining regulation will benefit consumers by ensuring they are provided with a simple, consistent and meaningful set of rules created to protect their personal data", said the letter.

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".

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Spokesman Christian Wigand said that "we can confirm that the commission is working on an update of European Union telecoms rules" next month to "ensure a high level of protection for people and a level playing field for all market players".

Telecommunications companies such as Telefonica and Vodafone have asked for regulations like these to be implemented for some time to "level the playing field" between them and over-the-top services. Some internet companies offer end-to-end encryption on their services.

The EU rules also allow national governments to restrict the right to confidentiality for national security and law enforcement purposes.

The Commission said it was considering whether the scope of the current rules needed to be adapted needs "to ensure adequate levels of consumer protection and ensure that regulation does not distort competition".

Along with introducing more security and privacy regulations, the rules could potentially compel the services to provide access to emergency numbers within messaging apps, said the FT.

EU plans to extend some telecom rules to web-based providers