EU delays final vote on spam legislation

The European Parliament failed to agree on a position regarding whether or not to outlaw spamming -- or the sending of unsolicited e-mail -- Thursday at its plenary session in Strasbourg, France.

The civil liberties committee led the debate on the proposed directive on data protection in telecommunication, authored by the European Commission. It proposed overturning the opt-in clause called for by the Commission. This clause would effectively prohibit unsolicited e-mail.

Opting in to a company's mailing list requires an affirmative, physical act on the part of the potential recipient of the spam. With the opt-out approach, the company assumes you will choose to sign up, and you have to click a box to remove yourself from the list.

However, attempts to persuade the full assembly of Parliamentarians to switch away from opt-in to a more lenient opt-out approach failed. Instead, 259 officials voted in favor of an opt-in amendment, with 210 against and six abstentions, said a Parliament spokeswoman.

But rather than agree on the opt-in approach, the Parliament decided to return the whole dossier to the civil liberties committee for re-examination. "There was no final vote," the spokeswoman said. "This first reading of the directive will have to be repeated, probably in around three months," she said.

Per Haugaard, spokesman for Erkki Liikanen, the commissioner for the information society, said the Commission is pleased the Parliament did not overturn its opt-in approach. "It's a shame it will now take longer to pass this directive but today's events were good from our perspective," he said.

Liikanen told IDG in an interview in July that with mobile Internet likely to take off in the coming years in Europe, the spam question becomes important.

"It is unpleasant getting spam on your mobile phone," Liikanen said. "Filtering it out slows the downloading process. Europeans view their mobile phone as personal, therefore should have a say in what is beamed in," Liikanen said, adding that the same applies to their e-mail inboxes on their PCs.

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