EU net neutrality proposal threatens privacy, says data protection supervisor

The proposed law leaves the door open for traffic management, Peter Hustinx says

The proposed European Union-wide net neutrality law would not protect citizens' rights to privacy, the European data protection supervisor said Friday.

The proposal from the European Commission in September leaves the door open for certain types of Internet traffic management to scan and discriminate between various

types of content, Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor (EDPS), said in a published opinion.

The Commission's proposal aims to allow providers to offer electronic-communication services across the E.U. based on a single authorization rather than the current 28 different national provisions. It is also supposed to further harmonize the conditions of radio spectrum assignment for Wi-Fi services and safeguard net neutrality.

However, net neutrality as defined by the EDPS has as its basis "the impartiality of Internet service providers towards the different types of information accessed and transmitted by end-users, and thus the absence of discrimination in the quality of Internet access services based on the content, source or destination of such information."

Article 23 of the proposal allows Internet traffic management measures for "implementing a legislative provision" and "preventing and impeding serious crimes." Traffic management allows service providers to block or filter the flow of information, so Hustinx is concerned that would significantly limit net neutrality and interfere with end-users' rights to privacy and the protection of personal data.

In particular, Hustinx warned that techniques such as deep packet inspection presuppose "a detailed analysis of the content of information transmitted over the Internet, which may thus reveal substantial and detailed information about users." He has called for an alteration of the proposal's text to provide clear information on which inspection techniques are allowed and that national data protection authorities have a greater role to ensure privacy and data protection rights of users.

The grounds of implementing a legislative provision should be scrapped from the proposal, while preventing serious crime is already covered for the purposes of implementing a court order, he wrote.

"Any monitoring and restriction of the internet activity of users should be done solely to achieve a targeted, specific and legitimate aim," Hustinx said.

However, Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has said that the proposed law provides guarantees for a more open Internet in the E.U. since the text explicitly bans traffic throttling.

Currently, 26 of the E.U.'s 28 member states lack net neutrality rules.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitylegislationgovernmentprivacy

More about European Commission

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jennifer Baker

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts