Google, Facebook face tighter EU grip

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Google, Facebook and other internet companies will be covered by strict new European Union privacy rules that seek to limit access to consumers’ data.

The EU proposed in a draft law unveiled in Brussels Tuesday giving online users more control of their settings and limiting the “overload of consent requests” for cookies people encounter when browsing the web.

The rules would extend the EU’s ePrivacy law beyond telecommunications operators to include “new providers of electronic communications services, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Gmail, iMessage, or Viber,” the regulator said.

“I want to ensure confidentiality of electronic communications and privacy,” Andrus Ansip, EU vice president for the digital single market, said in an e-mailed statement. “Our draft ePrivacy Regulation strikes the right balance: it provides a high level of protection for consumers, while allowing businesses to innovate.”

The latest proposal is among a series of regulatory fences companies have seen popping up over the past years as regulators seek to curb unwarranted processing of people’s personal data by online companies.

The Brussels-based commission hasn’t shied away from going after US tech giants on other fronts. Google has been fighting EU antitrust probes for years, while Apple Inc in August was ordered to pay as much as €13 billion in unpaid taxes, plus interest, to Ireland.

The proposal for a new ePrivacy law comes just months after the EU adopted a complete overhaul of the bloc’s data protection rules. They will take effect in May 2018 and for the first time give national privacy regulators the power to fine companies as much as 4% of their global annual sales for violations.

The same fining powers would also apply in case of breaches of the latest EU draft rules, which still need the backing of the European Parliament and EU ministers.