BRUSSELS Online messaging and email services such as WhatsApp (FB.O), iMessage (AAPL.O) and Gmail (GOOGL.O) will face tough new rules on how they can track users under a proposal presented by the European Union executive on Tuesday.
The web players will have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers’ conversations and ask for their consent before tracking them online to serve them personalized ads.
The proposal by the European Commission extends some rules that now only apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, seeking to close a perceived regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly U.S. Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft (MSFT.O).
Tuesday’s proposal would allow telecom companies to use customer metadata – such as the duration and location of calls – to provide additional services and make more money, something they are barred from doing under the current rules.
The review of the so-called e-privacy law will also force web browsers to have their default setting as not allowing personalized online advertising based on browsing habits. Instead, users will be asked to opt in to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers.
“It’s up to our people to say yes or no,” said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the digital single market.
Cookies are placed on web…