ePrivacy shake-up ‘will finally bring tech giants to heel’

tech_2The looming ePrivacy Regulation will revolutionise the way the Internet works, and finally stop the major tech companies from riding roughshod over consumers’ privacy by preventing them from offering “free services” in exchange for personal information.
So says the EU’s most powerful data privacy chief, European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, who also insists that the Regulation is pivotal for data protection as well as the smooth running of GDPR.
Technology giants Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have already gone to war on the Regulation demanding a major rethink, amid warnings that the proposals will also wreak havoc in the online advertising industry.
As far back as last September, lobby group the Centre for Information Policy Leadership – which represents all the major US tech giants – claimed the proposed “over-reliance on consent and its broad scope will undermine GDPR, as well as legitimate, processing of data and business practices within the Digital Single Market”.
Meanwhile, a study funded by the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA) and IAB Europe has warned that “device-level” consent could wipe out up to half of the €526bn (£470bn) market and threaten up to 6 million jobs.
But, speaking to Irish Tech News in support of the Faces of Democracy initiative, Buttarelli, said: “The ePrivacy Regulation is necessary to fill in the gaps left by the GDPR, which does not fully cover the specific sectors of the economy that provide communication services. Communications are supposed to be by default confidential. That is what people expect and what the EU fundamental right to privacy requires. Until now, the rules have only covered traditional telecommunications.
“It will go a long way to stopping constant snooping on people’s communications via services and apps. It will stop companies forcing people to accept being monitored in exchange for accessing content online. In doing so, it has the potential to change market incentives and thereby to encourage innovation so that access to information on the internet does not depend on invasive surveillance practices.
“Market incentives will therefore be revolutionised by the ePrivacy regulation, steering them away from the constant and covert tracking model that is ubiquitous in the industry.”
Following a number of delays, the new Austrian Presidency of the Council has made it a priority in their agenda.
Buttarelli concluded: “I am looking forward to the time when companies are far from indifferent to their consumers as many of the large tech companies are now, but rather are cautious to keep the goodwill of the public on their side.
“A time when GDPR will be applied not simply in order to ensure compliance with the law but also with the hope of fostering public goodwill instead of finding loopholes in an unduly complex text.”

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