A European Parliament Committee is expected to take up legislation in coming weeks that would require companies to include privacy-protection technology in their products.
The controversial provision is included in proposed revisions to a 1997 European Union law outlining privacy protections in telecommunications. The parliaments citizens freedoms and rights committee is expected to vote on it next month.
Computer companies and mobile phone makers argue that the provision would not stop those intent on misusing personal data. Instead, it would stifle innovation and hurt competition, according to the European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association.
"We do not want to get into a situation where [information technology] and technology development is being directed by a government body," said Melika D. Carroll, Intels government affairs policy manager for Europe.
The measures controversial provisions include a demand that all EU member states adopt an opt-in scheme requiring prior consent to send unsolicited e-mail. Supporters say this would help address the growing spam problem. An EU report released in February estimated that spam costs Net users and Internet service providers a total of $9 billion per year.
Direct marketers say the proposal does not distinguish between spam and marketing from legitimate companies. They say the opt-in requirement will not stop spam and will instead harm legitimate businesses.
A spokesman for Marco Cappato, the parliament member drafting a report on the proposal for the citizens freedoms committee, said his boss is "not enthusiastic about the proposal." Cappato has come under fire for using unsolicited e-mail for his political party.