European Parliament debates new online privacy law

29 June 2017

The European Parliament is debating new rules aimed at protecting people’s privacy online, raising concerns amongst news media the reform could impose new restrictions on internet advertising.

The rules, proposed by the European Commission in January, aim to increase security for people online and set uniform rules across the EU, focusing in particular on so-called ‘over-the-top’ service providers, like WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Skype and Gmail.

The Parliament has pushed continously for strong levels of privacy in the reform. That, coupled with the EU’s desire to demonstrate its concern for citizens’ data in light of recent cyber-attacks, has led to concern amongst businesses that rely on the internet, such as news media, that legislators might propose too much, too fast.

For example, MEPs are discussing a Commission proposal requiring companies to seek users' consent before utilising their data. Utilising readers' data is a key part of so-called online behavioural advertising - tracking users' online movements and proposing advertisements that might correspond to their interests - which online news media depend on to monetise their content and invest in creating new content.

Legislators have also discussed the automatic blocking of third-party cookies, which has also raised concerns amongst news media. Cookies allow media to provide personalised news feeds to users and vary the advertisements they see. 

Last week, the Parliament’s main team involved in the file, the civil liberties committee (LIBE), held a debate on their draft report on the proposals, with discussions tending to polarise between privacy advocates on the one hand and those pushing to avoid business restrictions on the other. 

The Parliament is expected to finalise its position on the file by the end of October.

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