ePrivacy: regulatory implications and impact on digital SMEs

What is crucial for our decisions and actions on ePrivacy regulation not only in the short, but also in the long term perspective?  

To have the reasonable and balanced solution on ePrivacy. The openness for data processing, which was proposed by me in the amendments on further processing, is key for innovative services. The openness for cookies and avoiding the situation that all our consents should go via big browsers – is key for the publishers, especially for small local websites. The openness for exceptions allowing for security activities – is crucial for security of the communication. The openness for the household exemptions is key for innovative services for individuals on their demand.

We need the ePrivacy to be complementary to the GDPR, with focus on confidentiality and with the purpose to make situation equal for all businesses (OTT), when the GDPR will enter into force.  It is not reasonable to totally undermine the GDPR by certain solutions in the ePrivacy, which would be welcomed by some businesses.  However, it is equally not reasonable to undermine the possible balanced solutions of ePrivacy by redundancy of the references to the GDPR and its restrictions. After the GDPR enters into force in May 2018, it would be better to have ePrivacy implemented in an adequate time, avoiding the mess related to the misinterpretations of the law because of the different levels of the current ePrivacy directive implementation in different countries.

I have worked hard on this portfolio, as the EPP shadow rapporteur, however my amendments were not taken into account by the Rapporteur of the draft Report. Therefore, we started the shadow meetings from a very difficult and disappointing position. But we achieved much more than we have expected. We deleted the “privacy by default” issue, we deleted the “tracking walls”, we opened the possibility for the “household exemptions”, we implemented the security issues, we changed completely the time of the entering into force this regulation, and many other points. We need to appreciate it. And we need to appreciate the readiness of our colleagues from others political groups to be open for compromises, very difficult for them.

But at the end “the compromise package” did not include the data processing openness. So we were not satisfied and there was no longer time for discussion. We, as EPP, took a political decision and not one based on merit analysis. And we have lost the package I described, and decided to vote in LIBE against the Report and against mandate!

For future consideration it is important to think how can we achieve the goal to achieve balanced solutions in the trilogue negotiating with a difficult starting point, not having the achievements, which were in the original compromise package?  It will not be easy. Some experts suggest that it will be impossible, because there is no 100% certainty on how the Member States will behave.

One additional point. We have worked under tremendous pressure. It is normal. But according to my merit-side assessment of the many voices from both sides: the voices from business and some civic organisations were based on misunderstandings, myths, creating bubbles and fake views. IT IS TRUE!  Many arguments made by business have been not true at different stages of negotiations and were not reflecting the advancement of changes in the text. It was a kind of the distribution of exaggerated threats – also, very often it was presented by some civic organisations. It is clear to me, that it is better to disseminate a true, reasonable assessment of the real impact of certain concrete solutions. In the future, we need to avoid this kind of situation, when we have not enough time to explain real problems, rather than focusing on the mess and misinformation.

Finally, we wanted to express our dissatisfaction with the mandate by voting in the Plenary.

The Plenary vote showed that the European Parliament is ready to give the mandate for the trilogue. It is not a very strong mandate, but it is a mandate. So it opens the possibility to work on the ePrivacy – improving the text, looking for the balanced solution, assessing all merit aspects of the needed equilibrium between innovation and respect of the citizens’ rights and expectations. We need to work together – all parties, all political groups, all institutions.

At the end, I want to emphasise how important is and should be, also for my EPP group – to keep the balanced approach to ePrivacy regulation: for business and for users, for citizens more and more aware of their rights related to the privacy and confidentiality protection. This equilibrium is necessary for the incoming Big Data revolution. This equilibrium is needed because it creates trust. The future digital revolution must be based on this trust. And it can be ours – as Europeans – and our European economy’s advantage vis a vis many other countries.

And, politically speaking – we need to have a clear message to our citizens in this area, taking into account their expectations and the increasing role of the awareness of their digital rights.