Tuesday 10 January 2017 5:26 pm

Tough EU privacy rules could soon apply to WhatsApp, Facebook and Google

Privacy laws which only apply to telecoms companies could soon be extended to cover newer digital services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Skype, in new proposals by the European Parliament.

The e-privacy directive governs things such as the handling of data and making sure users consent to sharing information. Now Brussels wants to update the legislation to cover new forms of communication.

This would include companies such as Facebook and Google's Gmail ensuring that data remains confidential unless given express consent by users and that cookies storing or tracking online behaviour are also consented to. Cookies are used for targeted advertising.

Read more: Bulk online data collection ruled illegal by EU court

"The proposal presented today is undoubtedly an improvement on the earlier draft which was leaked in December," said head of policy at the Internet Advertising Bureau, Yves Schwarzbart.

"That said, there are still a number of areas in the proposal that could not only seriously disrupt people’s browsing experience but effectively put the future of the web as we know at danger, with considerable knock-on effects on media pluralism and digital inclusion."

Read more: How can you monitor data in 810 billion photos?

The parliament is seeking to push through the rules by mid-2018 to fall in line with the General Data Protection Regulation due to come into force at the same time.

"Our proposals will deliver the trust in the digital single market that people expect. I want to ensure confidentiality of electronic communications and privacy," said Andrus Ansip, vice president of the digital single market.

"Our draft ePrivacy Regulation strikes the right balance: it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate."