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Brussels, 30 May 2002

Commission welcomes European Parliament's vote to accept directive on data protection rules for electronic communications sector

The European Parliament voted today to accept a compromise on the proposed Directive for the protection of personal data and privacy in the e-communications sector. The compromise was negotiated between the Spanish Presidency, the European Commission and the European Parliament during the past month. Now that the directive is agreed by the Parliament, it will be formally adopted within a few months and will be applied by the end of 2003.

Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for the Information Society said: "I welcome today's vote by the European Parliament. We have now concluded the whole telecom package. This will provide great added value for European citizens and for the development of the Information Society."

The adoption of the Directive will have the following results:

  • The EU will set an important world-wide precedent by adopting a harmonised opt-in approach to unsolicited commercial e-mail. The opt-in will equally cover SMS messages and other electronic messages received on any mobile or fixed terminal.

  • Citizens will have the right to determine whether their phone numbers for mobile or fixed lines, their e-mail addresses and physical addresses figure in public directories.

  • The use of privacy sensitive location data indicating the exact whereabouts of mobile users, will also be subject to explicit consent by the user. Moreover, users should have the possibility to temporarily block the processing of these location data at any time.

  • Invisible tracking devices, such as cookies that may collect information on users of the Internet may only be employed if the user is provided with adequate information about the purposes of such devices. The user should also have the possibility to reject these tracking devices.

The debate about the retention of traffic data for law enforcement purposes was settled with a new compromise text that strengthens the human rights safeguards that have to accompany national measures. However, the Directive does not contain any legally binding provisions that would either allow or prevent such measures, since these are not within its scope.

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