GSMA and ETNO Call for EU Data Protection Reform to Protect Consumers and Industry

Inconsistencies between the existing e-Privacy Directive and the proposed Data Protection Regulation need to be addressed

Brussels : The GSMA and ETNO today raised the need to tackle discrepancies between the proposed Data Protection Regulation and the 2002 ePrivacy Directive, which create inconsistent consumer privacy experiences and rights for equivalent services and data. A consistent data protection framework is needed for both industry and consumers. Operators strongly support the harmonization objective of the proposal but highlight that technology and service neutrality has not been sufficiently addressed yet.

The event brought together the European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx and MEP Lara Comi, Rapporteur from the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection ( IMCO ). Representatives from the European Commission and the privacy and civil rights organisation European Digital Rights also attended.

“While policy makers may have felt specific telecom privacy rules were justified in the past, the rules no longer seem appropriate,” said Martin Whitehead, Director of GSMA Europe. “Today it makes little sense to single out one particular sector when there are such a broad range of online service companies collecting and processing large volumes of functionally equivalent data. Against a background of global competition in innovative services, the co-existence of the ePrivacy Directive and General Data Protection Regulation would be incompatible with technology and service neutrality, and the need to provide users with consistent privacy experiences”.

“Were the current e-Privacy Directive and the proposed General Data Protection Regulation to co-exist, a number of difficulties which are already seen under the existing regulatory regime, would be experienced by both businesses and consumers. Firstly, telecoms companies and their customers would face dual compliance regimes, and so be disadvantaged in competition. Secondly, consumers would face inconsistent privacy experiences for functionally equivalent services. They would need to be aware of whether a service was being provided by a telecoms operator or an online service provider in order to assess their rights” said Daniel Pataki, ETNO Director.

Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), welcomed the opportunity for debate. “In the context of the European Court of Justice decision on the independence of the data protection authority, the CNIL decision on the Google investigation and this GSMA-ETNO seminar, it is a great day for data protection work. Communication today generates a great amount of sensitive data, and it is clear that inconsistencies within the e-Privacy Directive would call for review in order to apply the same rules to all similar data services. It is a question of consumer consent, which should be informed, specific, free and unambiguous. Principles and definitions should always be applied in a consistent way; legal certainty is indispensible.”

Both the GSMA and ETNO consider the overhaul of the European data protection rules to be welcome and timely and an appropriate opportunity to harmonise the handling of personal data across Europe . The associations will continue to work with the relevant policy makers to ensure a sound regulatory regime for the benefit of all. Failing to address the inconsistencies that are now apparent would be a considerable oversight.


Notes to Editors

For further background to this issue, please access the joint ETNO/GSMA briefing paper on the inconsistencies between the proposed General Data Protection Regulation and the e-Privacy Directive.

About the GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries and territories, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem , including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at

About ETNO

ETNO’s 38 member companies and 12 observers from Europe and beyond represent a significant part of total ICT activity in Europe . They account for an aggregate annual turnover of more than €600 billion and employ over 1.6 million people. ETNO companies are the main drivers of broadband and are committed to its continual growth in Europe .

Media Contacts:
Charlotte Durrant, Weber Shandwick for the GSMA
+32 (0)2 894 9014

Thierry Dieu, ETNO
+ 32 (2) 227 10 82

GSMA Press Office