Apps Like WhatsApp to Come Under Tighter Rules in Europe

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Apps and services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts – and now Allo and Duo, of course – have been offering “over-the-top” services for customers for years now, and while the carriers and networks all over the world haven’t ever looked upon this happily, the European Union is about to close the gap between the two. Traditionally, networks have complained that, as they use any internet connection, services like WhatsApp and co. are not as heavily-regulated as offerings from the networks themselves, which they feel makes these services harder to compete with, as they end up with more freedom. Now, however, the European Union is to change all of this, and will put services such as instant messaging apps and VoIP apps under more scrutiny.

According to draft documents obtained by Reuters, the EU is looking to bring in a separate law that will ensure these services guarantee confidentiality of the users’ communications and also ask permission to track their location. Right now, an Android user will have to allow an app access to their location, but it’s the sort of thing that only applies to that device, and not the service in question. It appears as though the EU is looking to hold these over-the-top services to the same standard as it would a network operating in the region.

Whether or not this new law comes into effect at the same time as a previously-planned law to further protect EU consumers online is unclear, and the European Commission, has declined to comment regarding this new draft. Under review also, appears to be the need for European surfers to see a banner advising them that there are cookies in use on the website they’re visiting for the first time as the effectiveness of this has come under question recently. Considering that users are more than likely to dismiss the banner out of annoyance than actually thinking what it means for their privacy, it’s unlikely most people think about what they’re accepting, and a law that comes into effect in the future might end up reversing this. Regardless, it appears as though over the next year or two the European Union is going to get tough on over-the-top services such as WhatsApp and they could, over time, help to shape the way these services are used all over the world.