Messaging services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp face stricter rules on how they handle customer data under new security laws due to be proposed by the European Union.
The EU executive wants to extend some rules that now only apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “over-the-top” (OTT) services, Reuters reports, citing a draft document.
Web services will have to guarantee the confidentiality of communications and obtain users’ consent to process their location data, mirroring similar provisions included in a separate data protection law due to come into force in 2018.
Telecoms firms have long complained that companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook are more lightly regulated, despite offering similar services.
The phone companies have called for European Union rules specific to telecoms firms — known as the e-privacy directive — either to be repealed or extended to everyone.
“This creates a void of protection of confidentiality for the users of these services,” the draft said, referring to 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.”
A European Commission spokeswoman declined to comment on the draft but said the aim of the review was to adapt the rules to the data protection regulation which will come into force in 2018 and simplify the provisions for cookies.
Telecom companies, barred by current rules from using customer data to provide additional services and make more money, will be able to use customer data with their consent, according to the proposal.
The EU proposal is set to be unveiled in January and may still undergo changes.
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