Europe set to finally make its OTT regulation move

The European Commission (hereafter referred to as the ‘Gaggle of Red-tapers’) is reported to be in the process of introducing new regulations for OTTs which will level the playing field for telcos in Europe.

In a draft document seen by Reuters, the e-privacy directive, which currently only applies to telcos, will be expanded to OTT services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp, as the Gaggle of Red-tapers lumbers towards some sort of decision on regulation. The telco industry has long been lobbying regulatory decision makers to address the imbalance in rules governing how telcos can monetize mined data, as there has been a general acceptance the OTTs have significantly more freedom.

The draft wants to extend the rules to ensure the OTTs will have to guarantee the confidentiality of communications and obtain the users’ consent to process their location data, mirroring similar provisions included in the Gaggle of Red-tapers’ General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), set to come into force in 2018.

“This creates a void of protection of confidentiality for the users of these services,” the draft reads, referring to the OTTs. “Moreover, it generates an uneven playing field between these providers and electronic communications service providers, as services which are perceived by users as functionally equivalent are not subject to the same rules.”

While the telcos have been begging for equality in the digital economy, this may not be what they had in mind. You do have to feel a bit sorry for the cumbersome telcos, they have had revenues shattered by the OTTs who are offering very similar services, but playing to a different rule book. The parity maybe welcomed by the telcos, and will give them the opportunity to monetize data in a similar manner to OTTs and open up new revenue channels.

The proposal will also remove the obligation on websites to ask visitors for permission to place cookies on their browsers, which currently appears via a banner, assuming the user has already consented through the privacy settings of the web browser.

“If browsers are equipped with such functionality, websites that want to set cookies for behavioural advertising purposes may not need to put in place banners requesting their consent insofar as users may provide their consent by selecting the right settings in their browser,” the draft said.

The proposal is set to be unveiled in January as a late-Christmas present from the Gaggle of Red-tapers to itself. After all, the Gaggle of Red-tapers wouldn’t be the party-animals they were if they weren’t given the opportunity to throw their red-tape all over the shop and complicate matters.

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