A new EU Privacy Ruling proposal would effectively kill all forms of spam unless people opt in.
The privacy ruling would also allow consumers to use ad-blockers, but publishers will be allowed to withhold content from consumers who do.
Please consider EU Proposal on Ad Blockers Welcomed by Publishers.
Media companies will be allowed to ban customers who use ad blockers under new online privacy rules proposed by the European Commission.
More than 200 million people are estimated to use ad blockers, depriving publishers of revenues but relieving users of often intrusive adverts.
[In the ruling, people can use ad-blockers, but publishers can withhold content from those who do.]
Publishers welcomed the move. Paul Lomax, chief technology officer of Dennis Publishing, a UK publisher that owns The Week, said: “It is vital that we retain the right to protect our content from those who wish to circumvent that value exchange.”
Brussels rolled back plans to introduce “privacy by design” that would have required all browsers such as Firefox and Google’s Chrome to automatically use a “do not track” setting, stopping online advertisers from following people around the web.
Instead users will be asked whether they want to opt in to such tracking. Advertisers fear that many will not opt in to tracking, in a change that would upend industry practice.
Smaller advertisers complained that these new rules would favour the likes of Facebook and Google, who have the scale to gather permission from users more easily. “A few global tech companies already in possession of immense data pools would be able to circumvent the nature of the law anyway,” said Stevan Randjelovic from the European Association of Communications Agencies, a lobby group that represents advertising and media companies.
In a bid to reduce the number of so-called “cookie warnings” — the pop-ups on websites in the EU — the commission will allow browsers such as Firefox and Chrome to offer blanket settings that would approve all cookies. Likewise, simple cookies used for purposes such as measuring traffic on a website would not require permission.
Diving into the Privacy Ruling we find a heavy dose of anti-spam rules consumers will like.
- All electronic communications must be confidential. Listening to, tapping, intercepting, scanning and storing of for example, text messages, emails or voice calls will not be allowed without the consent of the user. The proposed Regulation also specifies when processing of communications data is exceptionally permitted and when it needs the consent of the user.
- Confidentiality of users’ online behaviour and devices has to be guaranteed. Consent is required to access information on a user’s device – the so-called terminal equipment. Users also need to agree to websites using cookies or other technologies to access information stored on their computers or to track their online behaviour. The proposal clarifies that no consent is needed for non-privacy intrusive cookies improving internet experience (e.g. cookies needed to remember shopping cart history, for filling in online forms over several pages, or for the login information for the same session). Cookies set by a visited website counting the number of visitors to that website will no longer require consent.
- Processing of communications content and metadata is conditioned to consent. Privacy is guaranteed for content of communication as well as metadata – for example who was called, the timing, location and duration of the call, as well as websites visited. Metadata linked to electronic communications have a high privacy component and need to be deleted or made anonymous if users did not give their consent, unless the data is needed for billing purposes.
- Spam and direct marketing communications require prior consent. Regardless of the technology used (e.g. automated calling machines, SMS, or email), users must give consent before unsolicited commercial communications is addressed to them. This will in principle also apply to marketing phone calls unless a Member State opts for a solution that gives consumers the right to object to the reception of voice-to-voice marketing calls, e.g. by registering on a do-not-call list. Marketing callers will need to display their phone number or use a special prefix number that indicates a marketing call.
The big ruling is number 4. No one will opt in for phone or email spam. The US has “do not call lists”, but they do not work. I typically get 2-4 trash calls a day despite being on a no-call list.
I suspect such lists will work in the EU.
All in all, this is a mixed ruling that will please no one in entirety. But consumers, especially those badgered with phone solicitations, will get welcome relief.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock