The EU Ban on Spam

While North American governmental bodies lament the rise of spam, the European Parliament is banning it. Effective in October, the Parliament’s Directive 2002/58/EC [(PDF format)] bans unsolicited commercial e-mail within the European Union countries.

The directive, which also applies to unsolicited SMS and MMS messages, permits commercial e-mails from any company which has received the informed “prior explicit consent” of its own customers. It permits a company to sell, lease, or otherwise release its e-mailing list to another company, but only if the seller has received the informed “prior explicit consent” of all the consumer on that list each and every time the company sells it. The directive also requires that directory publishers get such consent before listing consumers’ data.

2002/58/EC also requires wireless networks or wireless application operators to get consumers’ informed “prior explicit consent” before operating geolocation services that can track consumers’ movements.

The directive also requires Web site operators to inform users whenever a site or other type of online service uses “spyware, web bugs, hidden identifiers, and other similar devices [that] can enter the user’s terminal without their knowledge in order to gain access to information, to store hidden information or to trade the activities of users and may seriously intrude upon the privacy of these users.” That includes ‘cookies’. The new directive, an extension of the 1995 European Commission directive on personal data and the movement of such data, was enacted by the European Parliament last July.