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European Commission opens proceeding against UK and Phorm

by Scott Bicheno on 14 April 2009, 12:57

Tags: European Commission

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Phunny business

The European Commission (EC) has opened an infringement proceeding against the UK, prompted by complaints from internet users about the use of Phorm technology by ISPs.

Phorm has been a source of controversy for some time. It produces something the EC refers to as "behavioural advertising technology", which allows content, such as advertising, to be tailored to the unique interests of the end-user, as calculated from their online activity.

The controversy lies in how Phorm gathers information about end-users and whether it breaches privacy laws in order to do so. The UK on the whole is the subject of this infringement proceeding as its laws are apparently considered to insufficiently protect the privacy of the individual.

"We have been following the Phorm case for some time and have concluded that there are problems in the way the UK has implemented parts of EU rules on the confidentiality of communications," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I call on the UK authorities to change their national laws and ensure that national authorities are duly empowered and have proper sanctions at their disposal to enforce EU legislation on the confidentiality of communications.

"This should allow the UK to respond more vigorously to new challenges to ePrivacy and personal data protection such as those that have arisen in the Phorm case. It should also help reassure UK consumers about their privacy and data protection while surfing the internet."

Phorm's own website shows the scars of all the attention it has received, missing no opportunity to stress how fanatically devoted to user privacy it is. There's even a lengthy presentation showing how it goes about it.

Are you pleased that this kind of technology is coming under such scrutiny or do you think Phorm is doing enough to protect our privacy? Let us know in the discussion forums.


HEXUS Forums :: 10 Comments

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Hope they get a big fine and told to get lost :)
If this actually amounts to action and not just hot air, then maybe the EU comissioon is good for something after all.

Are you pleased that this kind of technology is coming under such scrutiny or do you think Phorm is doing enough to protect our privacy?
Personally, I don't care what Phorm does to protect my browsing privacy, unless it is to not get it's hands on ANY data to do with my activities whatsoever.

In my view, it is not sufficient for them to provide an “opt out”, if that means I have to set cookies on every browser and every machine, and to reset them every time that cookie gets deleted or cleaned, or I install a new browser or OS. Nor is it acceptable to me that “opt out” means they don't filter my data streams and insert their ads, but that they still database my activities. Nor is some pseudo anonymising by use of a unique identifier acceptable, when all it takes is for some other data to link that identifier to me and suddenly their entire data record is no longer anonymous.

The ONLY solution acceptable to me is that Phorm never get their grubby little mits on any data relating to me, at all, ever.

So yes, I'm pleased about the scrutiny, but I'll be a LOT more pleased if it actually results in the situation changing in any material way.
You two pretty much summed up my thoughts on this.

EU's going up in my opinion(not hard to move up from nothing), first DAN HANNAN!!! Now trying to kill phorm?
You gotta appreciated the irony of this. On one hand the EU wants to hoard *all* our internet usage data, on the other they're bitching about a service which turns our browsing habits into a statistical table of what might interest us.

Yay for the EU ‘protecting’ our rights! :rolleyes:
Have to agree that it seems highly hypercritical what with the recent activation of the logging of all our email and browser activity…….

I guess as long as the info is for THEM and not for some private company, it's “all fine” :mad: