September 30, 2010 | Jim Killock

EU taking UK to court for privacy deficiencies highlighted by Phorm

Last year, ORG and others including No2DPI campaigned against Phorm, a technology that opened web traffic at ISPs to create profiles for behavioural advertising.

Phorm showed there are big holes in the UK privacy laws. In particular, the UK needs an official body to deal with citizens’ complaints about illegal commercial interception and enforce our legal privacy rights.

The result was that the EU Commission threatened to take the Uk to court. Such action is extremely rare, but today, they announced that they will do exactly that.

At the time, ORG made a technical analysis of Phorm alongside the Foundation for Information Policy Research and wrote to Commissioner Reding and her Commission's officers in the wake of the Phorm complaint. 

ORG's supporters also ran a successful campaign to persuade websites including Amazon to insist they were not scanned by Phorm's technology.

There is of course plenty of time for the UK government to amend our laws, and avoid being taken to court.


Comments (2)

  1. sbseed:
    Sep 30, 2010 at 02:05 PM

    even if the laws are amended, i still think they should be taken to court as an example that this kind of situation will not be tolerated.

    while keeping tabs on the actual criminal element in regards to e-commerce etc. there is a fine line there that should have never been crossed in regards to how the information is handled (no one should be able to profit from it) and kept out of the public domain whether someone is taken to court or not... and while some entities to should be made examples of in regards to copyright etc. when it comes to the much more sensitive issues there should always be a huge measure taken to keep it out of the public eye because people still need to work... and blacklisting individuals that used to be 'respected' members of society has become all too popular lately, and half of the time the person is in actuality innocent.

  2. Jim Killock:
    Sep 30, 2010 at 05:33 PM

    The problem was that nobody would take Phorm and BT to court (BT engaged in Phorm trials without informing their customers). If I remember correctly, the ICO said they won't deal with surveillance, the Interception Commissioner only deals with interception by the state, the police wouldn't investigate and the public prosecutor did not think it was in the public interest or sufficient harm was caused. So it fell into a black hole.

    The EU requires that there is something like an Interception Commissioner to deal with these problems. It would probably be best placed within the ICO's office to avoid people having to shop around to find the right person.