The European Union is getting closer to executing a plan to extend telecom rules around security and privacy to web services like Skype and WhatsApp, according to a report by Reuters on Monday. The extension of the rules would appease telecommunications companies who have long complained that web communications providers are more lightly regulated, even though they offer similar services.
Last year, when the European Commission unveiled its plan for a European Digital Single Market, part of that plan included new rules for over-the-top communications services, which were expected to result in new restrictions for services like WhatsApp and Skype.
As Skype and other web-based communications services rival traffic of traditional telecoms, the fact that regulatory bodies want rules around their usage is not unexpected.
The current ePrivacy Directive requires telecom operators to protect users’ communications while ensuring the location and traffic data is not stored. The EU wants to extend these rules to web firms, though the details of the particular confidentiality obligations would still have to be defined. It could include mandating that companies allow users to take a copy of their content with them when they switch providers, according to the report.
In the U.S. the FCC limits interconnected VoIP providers’ use of customer proprietary network information, including call records.
The EU is expected to propose a reform of ePrivacy rules later this year, with a broader overhaul to come in September.
Facebook argues that there is no need for the telecoms rules to apply to its web services since it offers end-to-end encryption. If the rules were to apply to its services, Facebook says, it would “no longer be able to guarantee the security and confidentiality of the communication through encryption.”