How can we better protect users and consumers when it comes to the Internet? What are the problems they encounter? And how can we propose concrete solutions?
We believe that the Internet must be transparent and safe, that it needs to remain open and competitive and, last but not least, that the Internet should be fair and inclusive.
Clément Legrand is a 24 year-old social media entrepreneur, who lives in the small village of Saint-Just in rural France. Working in social media and living in what he calls “a disconnected zone” is not really ideal, as he tells us. “I live in a rural area deprived of broadband, although telecom operators and local authorities have done the required work to install broadband only two kilometres away from my house.”
Increasing Internet connectivity in all European areas
Indeed, optimising the use of spectrum in Europe can help increase connectivity in less densely populated areas. “Operators and local authorities have been blaming each other for the past 10 years now but nothing has changed. I’m so frustrated to see that operators are preparing the transition to 5G whereas I’m still struggling with unstable 3G and minimum coverage.” But hopefully with new legislation on Telecoms, this will change.
I should benefit from an 8 Megabit connection, whereas in reality, it is more of a 2 Megabit connection, with constant interruptions which make it impossible for a video to load Clément Legrand
We are working on bringing more clarity to consumers with regard to the technical characteristics of Internet services. In this sense, we believe that the basic information package should include details concerning speed, principles for traffic management employed by Internet Service Providers and prices for different services.
These are real problems suffered by real people like Clément. “According to the offer provided by one of France’s main telecom operators, I should benefit from an 8 Megabit connection, whereas in reality, it is more of a 2 Megabit connection, with constant interruptions which make it impossible for a video to load. And I still pay for a ‘triple-play’ service. It affects my mood and my professional activity on a daily basis.”
EU standards must be applied to all data collected within the EU
Protecting users and consumers takes on particular significance when talking about Data protection, especially after the NSA scandal. This really affected Europeans and there are real requests for improvements.
“I’m well aware of the debate over the protection of personal data, especially in the light of the PRISM scandal. I am aware that a balance has to be found between national security and individual freedoms but I’m afraid nowadays that there is a clear imbalance. I find the idea of operators sharing personal information and private conversations with public authorities very disturbing. There should be a European ruling forcing operators to be transparent about what they hand over to public authorities,” says Clément.
I am aware that a balance has to be found between national security and individual freedoms but I’m afraid nowadays that there is a clear imbalance. I find the idea of operators sharing personal information and private conversations with public authorities very disturbing
We believe that the consumer and the user must know who to turn to in case their right to data protection is violated. Creating a one-stop-shop system is therefore a cornerstone of the Data Protection reform that is a top priority for us.
Also, we share the concerns of European citizens about the NSA scandal and that is why we believe that EU standards must apply to all data collected within the EU, even if stored or processed outside of the EU.
Recent reports on the NSA collecting the data of EU citizens reveal the need to include in the Data Protection Regulation an ‘anti-net tapping clause’ by establishing an obligation for companies to inform their customers in case of data sharing with public authorities.
We believe that EU standards must apply to all data collected within the EU, even if stored or processed outside of the EU
Finally, the Safe Harbour scheme, ensuring that US internet business complies with EU data protection rules, needs to be revised, and controls and checks by EU data protection authorities are needed.
Better informing consumers of what happens with their personal data
People want to be informed about what is happening online with their data and we are convinced that giving you control of your data is the right way to go. This is the case, for instance, with cookies that, in our opinion, must support the consumer not spy on him.
“It is all a matter of information. Cookies can actually be useful for online shopping for example; they help to bring up the products that would be the most adjusted to someone’s tastes according to previous searches and purchases. But people have to be aware of the trails they are leaving when they are browsing the web,” Clément told us.
We live in an era of social media; this has clearly changed the way many Europeans interact with each other. But users are not always informed, just like Clément: "I believe there is a clear lack of information from the operators to their clients regarding what use is made of their data."
I believe there is a clear lack of information from the operators to their clients regarding what use is made of their data
Indeed, social media companies must respect EU law by better informing users of how they process their data. And the same path should be followed by localisation services: they should be made available only on the user's explicit request.
Our approach to an open, fair and transparent Internet for all
A new and detailed EU Internet strategy for the time after the upcoming European elections in 2014 is needed. Otherwise the EU will miss essential steps towards economic growth in the digital era. Our approach will be based on guaranteeing freedom of expression, a free flow of information, access for everyone and, last but not least, taking care of individual rights and businesses.
To guarantee increased Internet connectivity to all European consumers, even when they reside in rural areas like Clément, and to help protect their personal data, the EPP Group especially calls for:
- Mobile broadband needs to be addressed by optimising the use of spectrum
- EU data protection rules that enable business and protect the individual
- Tackling the challenges to EU data protection standards by third countries
- Replacing the Safe Harbour scheme by a reviewed scheme to enable EU controls
- An Open Internet that offers open access for everybody
- Cookies that support the consumer, not spy on him
- Social networks to respect EU law
- Localisation services must be made available on request only.
Read more about our Group’s proposals for the upcoming legislature to enable European citizens to fully benefit from the digital era.