New EU Telecom rules might affect search

Tue 10 November 2009 11:01, Bas van den Beld

New EU Telecom rules might affect search

The European Union last week agreed on new rules that should reform the Telecom business in 2010. The new rules amongst others mean stronger consumer rights, an open internet, a single European telecoms market and high-speed internet connections for all citizens. This can affect many in Europe when it comes to Telecom, but it can also have its impact on search and social media. And not just for us Europeans, Americans can be 'affected' to.

The new rules were agreed upon last week. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers eached an agreement on the EU Telecoms Reform. The reform was already proposed in 2007 but only now it came through. One subparagraph was controversial, that's why it took so long. The paragraph was about the degree to which access to the internet should, and could, be protected by EU law. This rule exactly will have impact on search also. Let's take a look.

In a press release the European Union Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding stresses the importance of the agreement:

"It is very good news for Europe's citizens that negotiators of the Parliament and Council last night reached agreement on a new internet freedom provision to be included in the telecoms reform package. This internet freedom provision is unprecedented across the globe and a strong signal that the EU takes fundamental rights very seriously, in particular when it comes to the Information Society. The agreement on the new internet freedom provision, which has the unanimous support of all negotiators, now paves the way for a swift entry into force of this telecoms reform. The reform will substantially enhance consumer rights and consumer choice in Europe's telecoms markets, and add new guarantees to ensure the openness and neutrality of the internet. It will boost competition and investment in telecoms markets, and open up airwaves for new mobile services, allowing internet broadband for all Europeans."

The European Union says there are 12 prominent reforms in the package:

  1. A right of European consumers to change, in 1 working day, fixed or mobile operator while keeping their old phone number
  2. Better consumer information.
  3. Protecting citizens' rights relating to internet access by a new internet freedom provision.
  4. New guarantees for an open and more "neutral" net.
  5. Consumer protection against personal data breaches and spam.
  6. Better access to emergency services.
  7. National telecoms regulators will gain greater independence.
  8. A new European Telecoms Authority that will help ensure fair competition and more consistency of regulation on the telecoms markets.
  9. A new Commission say on the competition remedies for the telecoms markets.
  10. Functional separation as a means to overcome competition problems.
  11. Accelerating broadband access for all Europeans.
  12. Encouraging competition and investment in next generation access network.

Most of these measurements are really focussed on the Telecom industry and could be very good measurements, after all, who doesn't want to change carriers and keep your number in a day?

Other measurements will have a direct influence on the way we work with the web. Let's start with the obvious one: the new regulations will make it even more easy for Europeans to be online when on the road. Traveling between countries might become easier when it comes to using your phone to go online. That's a good thing. This will also mean a boost for mobile applications and more chances for for example Android.


The one measurement that will really affect search however is measurement five, the protection against personal data breaches and spam. The privacy issue is a much debated issue in the last couple of years and reaches a new hight with this measurement.

The new rule introduces mandatory notifications for personal data breaches. It's the first time a law of its kind is introduced in Europe. This means that communications providers will be obliged to inform the authorities and their customers about security breaches affecting their personal data. This will increase the incentives for better protection of personal data by providers of communications networks and services.

The rule states:

"In addition, the rules concerning privacy and data protection are strengthened, e.g. on the use of “cookies” and similar devices. Internet users will be better informed about cookies and about what happens to their personal data, and they will find it easier to exercise control over their personal information in practice. Furthermore, internet service providers will also gain the right to protect their business and their customers through legal action against spammers."

In summary that means cookies are not allowed anymore, unless users specifically allow them. Which means you will have to ask them first.

Cookies play a big part in search, especially with search engines. Social search for example can't live without it. And behavioral targeting will become a lot more difficult.

The new Telecom rules could therefore have a big effect on the way we work in search: mobile without cookies.


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