Council of the European Union assesses progress on the proposed e-Privacy Regulation

On 2, 3 and 4 December 2019 the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council met. Various subjects were discussed, including the progress made to date on the proposed e-Privacy Regulation.

The Council noted that the draft Regulation sets out to ensure a high level of protection for private life, communications and personal data in the electronic communications sector. It also aims to create a level playing field for providers of various services and to ensure free movement of electronic communications data and services in the EU.

The Council considered a progress report prepared by the Finnish Presidency and published on 27 November 2019. The Council noted that the Finnish presidency had worked intensively on the proposal. It had proposed solutions to all major issues raised by delegations, such as the prevention of child abuse imagery, the protection of terminal equipment information, the scope of the draft Regulation, data retention, co-operation among various authorities, the role and involvement of the European Data Protection Board, and the way in which the e-Privacy proposal would interact with new technologies, in particular in the context of machine-to-machine communication and the Internet of Things.

The Council also noted that, following these intensive discussions, the Finnish Presidency had presented a new compromise text of the Regulation to the Permanent Representatives Committee, with a view to agreeing a general approach that could be proposed to and adopted by the Council. However, such general approach did not receive sufficient support in the Committee, meaning that the Council was only able to take note of the progress report.

In light of this recent stalemate, it seems likely that the Commission will present a revised draft Regulation during the upcoming Croatian Presidency. This back to the drawing board approach means it is very unlikely that the draft Regulation will be agreed any time soon – and some experts are forecasting that the e-Privacy Regulation will not be in force before 2021.  Whilst this is potentially long after the UK has left the EU, the UK-EU transition period and expected extra-territorial aspects of EU e-privacy mean that the draft Regulation and its content will remain relevant to UK businesses for the foreseeable future.

To read the outcome of the Council meeting in full and for a link to the progress report, click here.