Joining the debate that has the support of the French president, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has strongly urged Internet companies to abide by European laws on privacy and consumer protection.
Colao notably rejected statements from Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who warned recently at the E-G8 summit that such rules would greatly hinder the innovation and free speech triggered by the Internet.
While acknowledging the difficulty of applying rules to how Internet companies can be regulated, Colao maintained that self-regulation will not be adequate. In an opinion article for the Financial Times, the Vodafone chief said that forthcoming UK laws could see the telecoms regulator ordering operators to stop customers from accessing web sites that host pirated music and video.
Colao also suggested that the regulator could extend its policies into other areas and require operators to block sites that broke national privacy or consumer protection rules. Of note, Colao said that Vodafone is being forced to follow the increasingly complex rules on data protection and national security, and stomach the associated compliance costs.
This mention of cost brings the Vodafone exec more into line with recent calls by France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard for the likes of Google and Apple to contribute towards network infrastructure costs. Richard has reportedly received indications from Google that it will listen to the argument. One of Colao's conclusions was for Internet companies to be subject to the same restrictions and costs as operators, "to ensure the same trust and a level playing field."
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