The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Peter Hustinx has urged the European Commission (EC) to ensure that any policy debate around net neutrality places the confidentiality of citizens' communications at its core.
Hustinx said that if internet service providers (ISPs) are given the right to monitor traffic and prioritise certain content delivery, then inspection techniques used to run these systems could invade people's online privacy.
"By looking into users' internet communications, ISPs may breach the existing rules on the confidentiality of communications, which is a fundamental right that must be carefully preserved," he said.
"A serious policy debate on net neutrality must make sure that users' confidentiality of communications is effectively protected."
In order to ensure that a satisfactory privacy system is put in place, Hustinx urged the EC to work with all relevant stakeholders to create guidance on how data protection laws should be applied around these issues.
He said these should specifically relate to any inspection practices or monitoring requests to ensure they are carried out within a set framework and that citizens should be offered the ability to choose non-monitored connections from ISPs as well.
The UK government has already given its tacit backing for ISPs to be able to tier the delivery of web traffic, in a move seen as a major blow for net neutrality.
However, in the US the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has confirmed that it will enact laws on 20 November designed to prevent ISPs deliberately throttling traffic based on the application or service being accessed.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.