The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) has today sent the Home Office in-depth legal analysis [pdf] of the Phorm behavioural advertising system. The analysis has been produced by FIPR's General Counsel (and ORG Advisory Council member) Nicholas Bohm, and complements the technical analysis produced by Richard Clayton earlier this month [pdf]. The analysis shows that Phorm's systems involve interception of communications contrary to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, fraud, contrary to the Fraud Act, and therefore unlawful processing of personal data, contrary to the Data Protection Act. It states that individual directors and managers of the Internet Service Providers involved could be criminally liable for these offences, if roll out of Phorm goes ahead.
FIPR want the Home Office to withdraw informal advice they issued in February, which FIPR say wrongly concluded the system is lawful, creating "an obstacle to the just enforcement of the law". At the public meeting attended by Phorm and their critics last week, Simon Davies of 80/20 Thinking Ltd identified the legality of Phorm under RIPA as a legitimate issue, but urged participants not to get bogged down in a question which, in the end, can only be decided in a court of law. Hopefully, FIPR's legal analysis will bring UK citizens one step closer to an answer to the question "Is Phorm legal?". As Richard Clayton observes:
"The Home Office's superficial analysis said that the system would be lawful. Given their batting average at the High Court, relying upon their opinion was always unwise - this new paper spells out the errors they have made, and makes it essential that their report is withdrawn."
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