Last week the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) adopted an opinion on the European Commission Communication on the open internet and net neutrality in Europe (*), a subject that has triggered great interest and controversy over recent months. Net neutrality refers to the issue of whether Internet service providers (ISPs) should be allowed to monitor network traffic to filter or restrict Internet access, for example to block specific services or applications (e.g. peer to peer) or give preference access to others.
The EDPS highlights the serious implications of these practices on the fundamental right to privacy and data protection of users, in particular, in terms of confidentiality of communications. Certain inspection techniques used by ISPs may indeed be highly privacy-intrusive, especially when they reveal the content of individuals’ Internet communications, including emails sent or received, websites visited and files downloaded. It is therefore crucial that compliance with data protection rules be closely monitored
Peter Hustinx, Supervisor, says: “The concept of net neutrality builds on the view that information on the Internet should be transmitted impartially, without regard to content, destination or source. By looking into users’ Internet communications, ISPs may breach the existing rules on the confidentiality of communications, which is a fundamental right that must be carefully preserved. A serious policy debate on net neutrality must make sure that users’ confidentiality of communications is effectively protected.” Here to read more.