The Commission has published its work programme for 2015 (11-page / 92KB PDF), which also references plans to finalise the reforms to EU data protection laws, simplify existing rules on misleading and comparative advertising, and conclude its 'Connected Continent' overhaul of existing telecoms market regulations.
The measures identified are part of the Commission's digital single market strategy.
"In 2015, as part of the digital single market strategy, the Commission will aim to conclude ongoing inter-institutional negotiations on proposals such as the common European data protection reform and the Regulation on a Connected Continent," the Commission said. "It will also propose new initiatives, legislative and non-legislative, to bring the digital single market to the level of ambition needed to respond to the existing challenges."
"In this context, the Commission will notably complement the regulatory telecommunications environment, modernise EU legislation on copyright and on audiovisual media services, simplify the rules for consumers making online and digital purchases, facilitate e-commerce, enhance cyber-security and mainstream digitisation across policy areas," it said.
The Commission said that it would review, under its REFIT programme (15-page / 129KB PDF), whether the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications (e-Privacy) Directive continues to be fit for purpose during 2015. It said it expects to begin this evaluation "following agreement on the data protection proposal" and complete the review in 2016.
The e-Privacy Directive was last reformed in 2009 and resulted in major changes to the way website operators display information about 'cookies' and obtain internet users' consent to their use. Cookies are small text files, stored on internet users' computers, which record those internet users' online activity.
Plans to review the e-Privacy Directive again were first outlined by the Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the European Commission, in September. At the time, information law expert Marc Dautlich of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, explained that the e-Privacy rules are closely tied to the EU's Data Protection Directive, which is set for significant reform.
"Some important definitions, including of 'consent', relevant to the e-Privacy rules are derived from the Data Protection Directive, so it is important that there is consistency across both instruments following the reforms to the EU data protection framework," Dautlich said.
He said reforming the e-Privacy Directive would "provide an opportunity to improve on the way rules on cookies were altered in 2009 and address the rise of other technology that is expected to replace cookies for tracking individuals' online behaviour and the idiosyncrasies of how that technology works".
Last month the Article 29 Working Party, a committee of representatives from data protection authorities based across the EU, said that the e-Privacy Directive rules on consent are applicable to alternative device fingerprinting technologies too.