The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on October 19 approved draft proposals to ensure high standards of privacy, confidentiality and security in electronic communications across the European Union.

The proposed rules apply to SMS and telephone services, and would update the EU’s existing e-privacy rules to cover recently introduced internet-enabled services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger and Facebook.

The text, drafted by Marju Lauristin (S&D, ET) constitutes the Euroepan Parliament’s draft negotiating mandate for talks with the Council on the revision of the e-privacy rules. It was passed by 31 votes to 24, with one abstention.

According to a European Parliament press release, the MEPs are calling for a ban on “cookie walls”, which block access to a website if the person does not agree to his or her data being used by the same site.

Snooping on personal devices via cookies or software updates, or tracking people without their clear approval through public hotspots or Wi-Fi in shopping centres, should also be prohibited, said MEPs.

“Privacy by default” settings should become standard for all software used for electronic communications and service providers must provide for strong encryption, they added.

MEPs also agreed on the need for strict limits on data processing and insisted that data should only be used for the purpose of which consent has been given by the individual.

So-called “meta-data”, which can give information about numbers called, websites visited, geographical location or the time and date a call and other sensitive data, should be treated as confidential and never passed on to third parties.

“E-privacy can give a great competitive advantage to European companies and help them to create a real European model for digital economy, with high quality services, consumer trust and free choice,” said Parliament’s lead MEP Marju Lauristin (S&D, ET).

Now, the full parliament will be asked at its plenary session in Strasbourg next week to formally confirm the committee decision to enter negotiations with the Council.  But the Council must agree on its own negotiating mandate before talks can start.

The European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament hailed the recommendations. GUE/NGL MEP Cornelia Ernst said: “I am delighted that the Civil Liberties Committee has stood up against intense pressure from lobbyists, built up over months by the advertising industry and US internet giants.”

“Today the worst potential loopholes were avoided,” she added. “Big internet companies had repeatedly requested permission to process the metadata from online communications, but this would have opened the door to misuse of personal data and the users’ loss of any control over their data… Today’s vote is a crucial step, not just for data protection, but for our social lives in the digital future.”