Will the EU Parliament protect your rights in “ePrivacy” reform? You have a week to take action

The EU Parliament’s Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) will vote on October 19 on the reform of the ePrivacy Regulation (ePrivacy). While negotiations are about to conclude, we need your help to ensure that the EU Parliament protects our rights to privacy and the confidentiality of our electronic communications. Tired of being tracked across the internet, automatically “opted-in” to data collection, or profiled for exploitation?

Here’s how the reform process is shaping up, and what you can do to defend your rights.

How the ePrivacy reform process works

The ePrivacy legislation has been on the books since 1997, setting out the rules for protecting our right to a private life and the confidentiality of our communications in the EU. It has already been reformed several times, but the European institutions are now updating the law so it aligns with the General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into force in May 2018. A second aim of the reform process is to enhance the level of protection for users’ rights.

So how is it going so far? The EU Commission’s initial proposal for accomplishing these goals was a welcome first step in the process (see our analysis).

The text then moved to the EU Parliament where three committees have advisory roles in the reform process, namely the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO), the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), and Legal Affairs Committee (JURI).  Ultimately, the LIBE committee will make the final decisions and shape the EU Parliament position on ePrivacy.

First, the IMCO adopted amendments that fail to protect our communications when they are stored and authorise the profiling of adults — a highly intrusive technique which can lead to discrimination and the violation of rights. The committee also introduced an amendment that would limit your control over how telcos and online services use your communications data (the “further processing” clause). Needless to say, we expected much more from the committee tasked with protecting consumer rights. The IMCO adopted a text of the final opinion that is simply not good enough to ensure adequate protection of users’ rights. ITRE adopted a similarly inadequate opinion (although the committee did include some positive language on the use of encryption).

Finally (and fortunately), the JURI adopted privacy-protective amendments that would guarantee the confidentiality of your communications when you use email, chat, VoIP, SMS, instant messaging apps, and more. The committee also adopted additional measure to protect us against online tracking, a highly intrusive yet common practice used by telcos and online platforms (see here and here). This positive result was achieved thanks to a progressive coalition of lawmakers in political parties who resisted and overturned privacy-invasive proposals advanced by MEP Axel Voss, who had been leading the work on the opinion.

Meanwhile, members of the decisive LIBE committee and in particular the Rapporteur MEP Marju Lauristin, responsible for the file, and the Shadow Rapporteurs, have all been working to produce a text that would strengthen our rights to privacy and the confidentiality of our communications while ensuring that industry can continue to innovate. But the stakes are high and corporate lobbyists are exerting tremendous pressure on lawmakers to introduce loopholes that would undermine these efforts. Access Now have been working actively to propose and secure user-centric protections in the text (see here and here). But we cannot do it alone.Your representatives need to hear directly from you.

Make your voice heard now!

While the LIBE committee is preparing to vote, it is important that you speak out to ensure there are no loopholes or privacy-invasive provisions included in the final text.

Our friends at La Quadrature du Net and Bits of Freedom have launched a platform that lets you easily contact all relevant members of the EU Parliament here and here. Bits of Freedom also teamed up with the Panoptykon Foundation to launch an interactive campaign opposing online tracking which empowers you to take action and defend your rights in the ePrivacy reform. Take some time, right now, to get this done. Your future self will thank you.