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UK ISP BT Could Face CPS Prosecution over Secret Phorm Trials

Posted: 25th Feb, 2010 By: MarkJ
lawphormThe Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed that it is still assessing the prospect of opening a criminal case against BT following the operator’s secret trials of Phorm in 2006/2007. Phorm controversially worked with UK broadband ISPs ( BT , TalkTalk and Virgin Media ) to develop a system that would monitor what websites you viewed for use in targeted advertising campaigns, though many likened its service to Spyware.

Privacy campaigner Alexander Hanff (NoDPI) originally began pushing for the CPS to investigate at the end of 2008. This followed a decision by the City of London Police (CoLP) not to pursue BT's secret trials. The CoLP bizarrely stated that such an investigation would have been too costly, too complex and those taking part in the trials were curiously deemed to have given their implied consent (here).

A CPS Spokesperson told NoDPI yesterday:

"The Crown Prosecution Service is working hard to review the evidence in this legally and factually complex matter. We have requested and received technical and expert evidence, some of which we have only recently received, and which is being very carefully considered.

We are currently awaiting advice from a senior barrister which we will review before coming to a conclusion. We are giving the matter meticulous attention and will reach a proper and considered decision as soon as it is possible for us to do so."

Phorm itself has since gone quiet after its major UK ISP backers effectively put their plans on ice, at least for now. In addition the UK government is still under threat after the European Commission (EC) opened a second phase of infringement proceedings against it concerning a lack of full internet privacy and personal data protection (here). This is also directly linked with BT's secret trials.

We recently reported that the UK government had issued another formal response to counter the EC's threat, although the Home Office has this week refused to reveal the content of its reply.

Dear [ISPreview],

Thank you for your e-mail of 2 February 2009 about the Home Office’s response on the 18 January 2010 to the Reasoned Opinion issued by European Commission about the transposition of the EU law requirements concerning confidentiality of communications.

The Home Office will not be able to provide information in relation to their response, as the negotiations and exchange of correspondence with the European Commission are confidential.

Regards

[Home Office Contact]

It took them over two weeks just to inform us that the letter was confidential :glee: . We are currently still trying to obtain details of the letter via the EC, which has worked in the past but it’s a very slow process.
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