EU lawmakers are gearing up to launch talks with members states on a bill that aims to keep online communications private.
On Thursday (26 October), the European Parliament will vote on whether to put forward an official position on the so-called e-privacy regulation.
Industry and centre-right MEPs argue that it will limit jobs and innovation by imposing too many restrictions.
But Giovanni Buttarelli, the European data protection supervisor, says it will also create new jobs in the privacy sector.
“We may create an unbelievable amount of new professions, jobs, opportunities for European Union small and medium size enterprises,” he told this website, earlier this week.
Earlier this year, a study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers said the EU continues to lag behind the US in terms of top global companies, many of which are geared towards technology.
Buttarelli says while this may be the case, the EU should continue in its efforts to be a global leader in privacy and data protection regulation.
“We will remain a little bit handicapped internationally in terms of technological development,” he said.
But he notes that privacy and data regulation sectors also offers new opportunities for European-based business in areas like ‘privacy by design’.
Such professions and jobs, he says, have little prospect of materialising in the United States where big tech companies dominate and tend to drive policy debate.
He also argues for a uniform level of protection across all platform.
“Interoperability, interactivity and interplay are also relevant for rights,” he said.
War on ‘cookie walls’
The reform of the 2002 e-privacy directive has major implications for both businesses and citizens, ahead of the launch of the EU’s data protection regulation next May.
The general data protection regulation deals with personal data, while e-privacy sets out rules on keeping telecom firms from prying into online chats and tracking users without their consent.
The Council, representing member states, has yet to formulate its stand.
But businesses and industry appear largely opposed, arguing that the e-privacy reforms, as proposed by MEPs in the civil liberties committee (Libe), are too restrictive.
The Libe wants, among other things, a ban on ‘cookie walls’, which block access to a website if the user does not agree to his or her data being used by the same site.
It also wants to make it easier for people to give or withdraw their consent by using browser settings instead of pop-up banners.
Left-leaning MEPs argue that the draft proposal would ensure high standards of privacy, confidentiality and security in electronic communications.
Meanwhile, some NGOs say it does not go far enough in protecting rights.