Vodafone backs EC bid to tighten OTT communications regulations

EC building, Brussels

Vodafone backed European Commission (EC) proposals to beef up regulation of over-the-top (OTT) communications services offered by companies including Facebook and Microsoft.

In its response to an EC consultation on the proposed amendments to the European Union’s (EU’s) electronic privacy (e-privacy) laws, the UK-headquartered operator argued that all communications services should face the same security regulations, Mobile World Live reported.

Vodafone’s argument echoes that of most major telecoms companies, which are currently subject to stricter regulations than non-EU OTT messaging services such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Microsoft’s Skype.

The Financial Times earlier this month reported that the EC is preparing to publish its proposals on an updated e-privacy directive in September. While operators are seeking a level playing field in terms of regulation, the newspaper noted that the commission’s motivation is more about ensuring that security services are able to access information shared through OTT messaging services.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook argued that the EC’s plans are unnecessary and unfair, Mobile World Live reported.

In its own response to the EC call for comment, the social network said that the inclusion of OTT messaging services in the updated e-privacy rules would discriminate against them, and that the move was not proportionate, the news outlet noted.

The U.S.-headquartered company said the EC’s plans leave unanswered questions regarding how web companies would gather information on individual communications, and the likely cost of implementing the systems necessary to do so, Mobile World Live explained. Facebook also believes existing data protection regulations make additional rules unnecessary, the news outlet noted.

While online services that enable consumers to call fixed or mobile phones are also on the EC’s radar, online-to-online calling services are not currently included in the proposed e-privacy update, the Financial Times reported.

The fate of OTT communication service providers is by no means sealed, as the EC’s proposals must be debated by EU member states before an attempt to pass them into law can be made.

For more:
- see this Mobile World Live report
- view this Financial Times article (subscription required)

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