Within the European Union, a vehement dialogue about user’s rights and data privacy has been underscored by new leaked documents showing what some call a “watering down” of regulations and consumer protections promised by some campaigning politicians.
Consumer advocates are looking hard at the work of the European Parliament and the European Commission on telecommunications rules, after negotiations lasting many months.
The Wording of Regulations
In some cases, it’s not so much about what lawmakers are putting into the text of legislation, it’s more about what they’re taking out, or what they’re not putting in to begin with.
Critics of current procedures are pointing to the removal of phrases like “safeguard of end-users rights” and “non-discriminatory treatment of traffic,” claiming that these omissions hobble the net neutrality protections that citizens have been asking for.
Critics also point to various things about clauses of legislation such as “traffic management measures” that just don’t seem to have core protections for users. That leads to a more general conversation about the role of technology in governments, and in societies.
More on the EU Privacy Struggle
Other reports reveal that concerns about new privacy regulation and telecommunication laws are not limited to concerns about net neutrality. There’s something called the General Data Protection Regulation that has been advocated for, and that some in the European Union see government groups as “weakening” through deliberate or coerced compromises on the rights of citizens, and the use of technology.
Another big issue here is focused on the infamous ‘roaming’ charges that have financially battered more than one generation of cell phone users.
In a nutshell, the EU had been moving toward a blanket rule on roaming charges, virtually eliminating these charges for those moving between member countries. Now, people see the roaming agreement going backward, or failing to include significant types of telecom use, and that’s inflaming consumers even more, by hitting them in their wallets as well as making them feel nervous about government intrusion.
In many ways, efforts to use VPNs or proxies or anonymity tools on the Internet are just common-sense reactions to what individual citizens see as an oppressive uber surveillance of themselves, their lives and their communities. And, when people do use technologies in their defense, they may find themselves under intense scrutiny or otherwise under fire, locked out of certain software services, or targeted for even more surveillance.
It’s up to concerned citizens to stay vigilant about issues like net neutrality, fair use and, last but not least, personal privacy on the Internet. Where the General Data Protection Regulations were made to limit the use of data by third parties such as marketing companies, it’s concerning that EU leaders are willing to let these initiatives slide backward. It points to a more general phenomenon where it takes a social movement to uphold the classic liberties and rights that we need in this digital age.