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Industry reacts as Europe tries to tame the Wild Wild Web

Wild West Frontier Cowboy

For years it has been more accurate to describe the digital landscape as a lawless frontier than a bountiful, connected economy, but while Europe attempts to tame the beast, industry is hitting back.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline might have passed in the midst of a flurry of emails attempting to re-qualify leads for continued spam, but the communications industry isn’t taking time to lick its wounds. Next on the agenda to ensure privacy and data protection standards and rights are maintained in the bloc is the e-Privacy regulation, implementation targeted for 2019, and the lobbyists are hitting the bureaucrats hard already. The argument here is a simple one; rules kill innovation. It is hard to argue this point; without rules imagine what could be done, but what would be the cost? Rules in place for a reason, and one of those reasons is when money is concerned, people cannot always be trusted.

The e-Privacy regulation, which was initially intended to be released in conjunction with GDPR, hopes to add further clarity to a number of principles of GDPR and while also enhancing protections to consumers. While GDPR was created to enshrine Article 8 of the European Charter of Human Rights in terms of protecting personal data, ePR will focus on Article 7 in respect to a person’s private life.

The communications industry might not be happy with the changes to regulations, warning there would be a cost to growth and innovation, but in truth these organizations have been operating in a lawless economy, where the consumer had few protections. These companies have been taking advantage of the fact regulators were struggling to keep up with the evolution of the communications space; realistically these rules should have been in place for years, but such is life and the realities of the public sector.

On the more dramatic side, you can have a look at the video below:

Like A Bad Movie – App-ocalypse from Like A Bad Movie on Vimeo.

This video was brought to the world through a coalition of associations using the tagline #LikeaBadMovie. It is PR at its most stereotypical; a loose grasp on the facts, exaggerated, melodramatic, theatrical and over-the-top. Who should we be thanking for such a production? Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe, World Federation of Advertisers, European Association of Communications Agencies and Association of Commercial Television in Europe, amongst others. As you can imagine, these organizations are funded by the companies who have been benefitting from the lawless digital landscape, such as Microsoft, Verizon, Google, Amazon and Snap.

e-Privacy regulation is the new battlefront for these organizations as they seemingly lost out when it came to GDPR. Using Transparency International’s Integrity Watch tracker, we the last couple of weeks have been littered with meetings between the most influential figures in the European Commission and lobbyists representing some of the worlds’ largest communications companies. Specific content of the meetings does not have to be declared, there is likely to be some commercially sensitive information, but just using the search function with keywords such as e-Privacy, GDPR and Electronic Communication Code a series of meetings are uncovered. Some of the most active lobbyists include the likes of Facebook Ireland, ETNO, Microsoft, Google, Symantec and Deutsche Telekom.

We still might be trying to dig through the horde of GDPR emails, the legal (and financial) backlash of non-compliance might still on the horizon and we still don’t quite know how these rules will impact innovation, but the industry is not sticking around. GDPR was yesterday’s problem, e-Privacy is the next regulation for the industry to try and derail.


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