Three days before the EU’s vaunted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, mobile trade association the GSMA called for a similar approach to be adopted in an update to privacy rules applicable to operators.

GDPR imposes new rules on companies’ storage, and use, of consumer data within the EU. The association said while this legislation struck the right balance between being pro-industry and pro-privacy, proposed separate rules applicable to mobile operators placed an unfair burden.

The GSMA added operators were already subject to a greater number of regulations than other companies operating in the digital space, an inconsistency which should be addressed in new e-privacy regulation (ePR) currently working its way through the European Council.

ePR is a proposal put forward by the European Commission to replace the existing e-privacy directive. The new legislation covers the provision of digital services, but is also designed to take into account new technologies – such as the IoT – which have emerged since the adoption of the e-privacy directive in 2002. Plans to update the directive in 2016 placed operators and internet companies at loggerheads.

GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti (pictured) said: “The specific obligations imposed by the European Commission’s current proposal for the ePR would be detrimental to the mobile industry’s ability to innovate and invest in future technologies, such as 5G, the IoT, [artificial intelligence] AI and big data.”

“Data privacy regulation is essential, but fair competition and consumer protection require the consistent application of privacy regulations,” he added.

The association argues ePR proposals impose too many restrictions on the way operators can use metadata, which could prevent legitimate, unobtrusive use of information and – as a result – hold back innovation, negatively impacting society and the wider economy.

“Europe needs greater alignment between the ePR and the GDPR to support individuals’ fundamental rights, while permitting technological developments and spurring investment. Otherwise, this lack of consistency in European privacy regulation could harm consumers’ interests in the long term by denying them the potential benefits of new communications services in the future,” Giusti concluded.