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Skype, WhatsApp to face stricter EU security rules

A draft document seen exclusively by Reuters details how messaging services could face stringent rules on handling user data.

By CBR Staff Writer

Popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype are likely to come under stricter rules on handling customer data under new security laws scheduled to be proposed by the European Union (EU).

According to a report, the EU authorities are reportedly planning to extend existing rules, which currently apply to telecom operators, to include internet companies providing online messages and call services, dubbed Over-The-Top (OTT) services.

According to a draft document seen by Reuters, web-based communication services will reportedly be asked to secure users’ approval when handling their data, including location data and others.

The new regulations are due to come into effect in 2018.

Telecoms firms in the EU are of view that companies like Microsoft, Google and EUFacebook are more lightly regulated, even though they provide similar services.

According to Reuters, the draft reads, referring to OTTs, “This creates a void of protection of confidentiality for the users of these services.

“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.”

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A European Commission spokeswoman indicated that the data regulations review was intended to tailor the new rules to the existing data protection regulations.

The new regulations are also aimed at simplifying the provisions for the use of cookies.

It would also remove the obligation for websites to ask visitors for permission to place cookies on browsers, provided users have already approved to it, through the privacy settings of their web browsers.

The draft said: “If browsers are equipped with such functionality, websites that want to set cookies for behavioral 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 is set to be unveiled in January 2017. It may likely undergo several changes prior to its official implementation.

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