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Google may be forced to stop reading your Gmail for ads

Updated Jan 11th, 2017 6:01PM EST
Online Privacy Rules EU
Image: Shutterstock

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The European Union is looking to take additional steps to guard the privacy of European internet users. The new initiative might limit the power of internet companies when it comes to collecting user data for various purposes. Targets include Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Apple and pretty much any other company that handles any sort of user data.

The new initiative might, for example, force Google to stop reading your Gmail to serve targeted ads without your approval.

The European Commission said in a press release on Tuesday that it proposes a “high level of privacy rules for all electronic communications and updates data protection rules for EU institutions.” The updated rules would treat telecom operators and internet service providers similarly when it comes to the handling of user data.

Internet companies including Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Apple, and others would have to guarantee that messages, voice calls, and email conversations are confidential.

The new proposed laws would also affect cookies, which companies can use for various purposes including tracking users online. The new rules should make users “more in control of their settings, providing an easy way to accept or refuse the tracking of cookies and other identifiers in case of privacy risks.”

Users will have to explicitly opt-in when it comes to sharing data with third parties. Services that use location data and other metadata would still be available to internet companies, and the EU believes they’ll bring over new business opportunities.

But privacy has to be guaranteed, and businesses would have to ask for consent before using any data from their customers. “Privacy will be guaranteed for both content and metadata derived from electronic communications (e.g. time of a call and location),” the EU writes. “Both have a high privacy component and, under the proposed rules, will need to be anonymized or deleted if users have not given their consent unless the data is required for instance for billing purposes.”

Naturally, the proposal was met with some opposition, with the European Telecommunications Network Operations (ETNO) arguing that the new rules would still put more pressure on traditional telecom companies. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is also unhappy about the new cookie stance the EU is taking, as the new laws could impact advertising revenue.

The EU’s new privacy rules are just proposals at this time, but the Commission is looking to “ensure their smooth adoption” by May 25th, 2018.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.