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Europe Drops Phorm Related UK Internet Privacy Infringement Case

Posted: 27th Jan, 2012 By: MarkJ
internet lawphorm uk logoThe European Commission (EC) has officially closed its internet privacy infringement case against the UK, which was launched in April 2009. The case followed concerns about a company called Phorm and its ability to monitor what websites broadband ISP customers were visiting for use in targeted advertising campaigns.

Phorm's service, which was initially trialled without customers consent by BT Retail, controversially used Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology in a way that many likened to Spyware. The firm was eventually forced to abandon its UK plans after a swathe of negative publicity made the service too hot for ISPs to handle.

At the same time Europe launched a related case against the UK for failing to fully implement its internet and email privacy rules (ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC and Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC). Last year the UK amended its national legislation (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) so as to prevent interception of users' electronic communications without their "explicit consent" (detailed here).

European Commission Statement

The European Commission has closed an infringement case against the UK in recognition that UK national legislation has now been changed to properly implement EU rules on ePrivacy and data protection on the confidentiality of communications such as email or Internet browsing. The Commission believes UK law and institutions are now well-equipped to enforce the privacy rights of UK users.

The Commission opened this infringement procedure in April 2009 (IP/09/570), because UK Internet users were concerned about how the UK authorities had handled their complaints over the use of targeted behavioural advertising by several Internet service providers.

The UK's new rules also established an additional sanction and supervisory mechanism to deal with breaches of confidentiality in electronic communications, yet it should be said that the amended rules have made an exception for network management purposes (e.g. Traffic Management, anti-spam systems etc.); this is partly what seems to get TalkTalk's sometimes controversial HomeSafe service (here) off the hook.
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