Expert meeting on spam in Brussels

By EDRi · October 22, 2003

With only a few days to go before the 31 October deadline for the
transposition of the new Directive for Privacy and Electronic
Communications, on 13 October the Commission organised a public workshop
about spam. More than 200 public and private stake-holders attended,
ranging from government representatives to consumer & civil rights groups
and from data protection authorities to spokespersons for both internet
and mobile telephony companies. Later this year, the Commission will
produce a (non-binding) communication based on the results of the

In his opening speech Erkki Liikanen, the Commissioner for Enterprise and
the Information Society summed up 3 main tasks for member states after the
entry into force of the directive; enforcement, consumer self-help and
awareness and international co-operation.

Up to date, only Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Austria have enacted
the opt-in regime, the other member states have yet to follow. When asked
about the progress in negotiating a spam-ban with the United States,
Liikanen referred to private anti-spam initiatives by US internet service
providers. The United States currently don’t even have an opt-out regime,
and Liikanen remarked that it was very difficult to convince US
politicians of the need to take measures, since they consider mail a very
important communication channel with their constituency and are afraid of
restricting it.

Discussing the need for complaints mechanisms, EDRI pleaded for Commission
support for national or even Europe-wide spam-boxes as the easiest way for
European citizens to get redress for complaints about spam. The
representative from the European Coalition against Unsolicited Commercial
Email (Eurocauce) supported the need for cross-border monitoring and
enforcement. The Commission said they would gladly intensify collaboration
with the Data Protection Authorities after the 31st of October. When asked
by the Commission about their experiences with a national spam mailbox,
representatives from the French and Belgian DPA answered that both pilot
projects had stopped. Both concluded that a national initiative would
never suffice, and called on the Commission to help with cross-border
enforcement. Though the Commission saw no possibility for further (civil
law) harmonisation of fines, the future framework decision on attacks
against information systems will create a penal law solution against
(fraudulent) spam.

In February 2004 the OECD will host a conference on spam. The Commission
hopes this will encourage more countries to switch to an opt-in regime.
Given the particularly slow implementation rate of the previous privacy
directives, it comes as no surprise that the spam-ban will not be
evaluated before 2006.

Commission: results of questionnaire (01.10.2003)