Service providers in the mobile and ICT sectors are currently calling for a review of the existing EU level framework concerning the protection of personal data. They have pointed out that the 2002 “ePrivacy Directive” and the newly proposed “Data Protection Regulation”, if left as they are, would create discrepancies in data protection standards that would be detrimental to industry, consumer and operator alike.
Martin Whitehead, director for GSMA Europe stated that, “While policymakers have felt specific telecom privacy rules were justified in the past, the rules no longer seem appropriate”.
GSMA is an international organisation representing the interests of operators in the mobile sector. Whitehead further criticised the situation, adding that it makes little sense to single out one particular sector when there exist such a broad range of online service companies processing large volumes of data for very much the same reason.
“Against a background of global competition in innovative services, the co-existence of the ePrivacy Directive and General Data Protection Regulation would be incompatible with technology and service neutrality, and the need to provide users with consistent privacy experiences,” Whitehead said.
This statement was supported by the European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO) which, in turn, carries out a similar function to GSMA but in respect of fixed telecom providers instead. It currently represents the interests of 38 member companies in the telecoms sector and 12 observer companies in the ICT sector. Both organisations have suggested that this time where data protection rules are in discussions for amendment is a golden opportunity to harmonise data protection standards in all sectors, if done prudently.
Daniel Pataki, director of ETNO stated that, “Were the current e-Privacy Directive and the proposed General Protection Regulation to co-exist, a number of difficulties which are already seen under existing regulatory regime, would be experienced by both businesses and consumers.”
He added that telecoms and their respective clients would be exposed to a dual compliance regime under both laws, and would therefore be at a disadvantage in competition due to the lack of clarity as to which laws to comply with. If the matter remains as is, a consumer would have to differentiate between their data protection rights with respect to a telecom provider as opposed to a different set of rights they would have where the service comes from an online service provider. This would hardly be ideal and is bound to cause confusion both for companies as well as consumers.