Online companies like WhatsApp, Gmail and iMessage will have to guarantee users’ confidentiality during conversations, according to new European Union proposals. The new proposals, according to The Daily Mail, seek to ensure that WhatsApp and Gmail ask for your permission before tracking you to serve personalized ads. When fully operational, the law will ensure that Gmail and other email companies will not be able to scan your email to serve you ads.
The proposal, which was presented by the EU on Tuesday, will bar email companies from scanning your email to serve you tailored ads without your explicit consent, the report adds.
Recall that email companies like Gmail generate revenues from scanning your email and serving ads tailored according to your needs. This is one situation the EU does not want, and wants to make laws that will ensure that the privacy of users is respected by online companies.
The EU’s new proposal will force web browsers to have their default setting as not allowing personalized online advertising based on browsing habits. Information about a user is usually stored in browsers in what is called cookies. For example, information about your browsing activities are stored in the browser, and used by companies to deliver targeted ads to you.
According to the proposed e-privacy law: “It’s up to our people to say yes or no,” said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the digital single market.
However, such proposals, according to some online advertisers would seriously affect or undermine the ability of many websites to offer or keep offering free services to their visitors/users. Most of these advertisers claim that the data being used cannot identify the user, and therefore pose low risk to his privacy.
Once the new rules come into play, it will no longer be obligatory for websites to ask for permission to place cookies on a user’s browser since consent would have been granted through the privacy settings of the web browser.
Companies that violate the rule will face a fine of up to 4 percent of their global turnover, in line with a separate data protection law set to enter into force in 2018.
However, the proposal is subject to the approval of the European Parliament and member states before becoming law. Perhaps, a few inputs from the European Parliament before the proposal gets the final nod.
Since May 2014, Google has been in disagreement with various authorities in Europe that aim to protect data of its citizens. The European Court of Justice ruled that its people could ask Google, Bing, and other search engines to remove irrelevant information that would appear under searches for their name. This ruling has been known as “right to be forgotten.”
Facebook-owned WhatsApp is currently being investigated by the Information Commission’s Office, a UK data protection watchdog for issues related to sharing of user data with its parent company, Facebook.
The ICO via a statement issued by its commissioner, warned Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder that it had initiated a probe into the change in policy. Elizabeth Denham, the ICO commissioner said:
“The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control.