Phorm's Webwise behavioural advertising system snoops on any web pages that you visit if your internet service provider (ISP) participates in the program. For Webwise to do this, they have to perform an illegal interception of your private communications, yet no UK authority took action to enforce the law.
Webwise represents a gross invasion of privacy. Securing users’ consent for data processing is the very least consumers can expect. While commercial companies will look to Webwise and similar systems to generate revenue, transparency from all parties involved and proper regulation are a necessary prerequisite to protect individual rights.
The Open Rights Group alerted The European Commission to the poor state of law enforcement in the UK which initiated an ongoing action against the UK Government for failing to implement the law.
We also wrote to major websites and asked them to block Webwise from monitoring pages they served. After Wikipedia, Amazon and mySociety agreed to our request, it was only a matter of time before major ISPs – including BT, TalkTalk and Virgin - distanced themselves from Phorm and Webwise.
While the battle for improved law enforcement around online data interception has not been completely won, behavioural advertising systems will be held to a higher standard in future as a direct result of action by the Open Rights Group.