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Party Politics & Phorm

Gordon Brown’s performance in this morning’s interview with Andrew Marr was pathetic beyond description.  It shows a man losing his grip on power and trying to convince himself, his cabinet, his party and everyone else that things aren’t as bad as they seem to be.  When he started to talk about fairness and responsibility I nearly choked on my tea.

His is the “government” which has done nothing to prevent the illegal interception – without the customer’s knowledge and without due judicial process – of thousands of peoples’ internet communications data by BT and Phorm.  Some would say his government is complicit.  Others might say they are collaborators.  Either way it is his government, civil service, watchdogs, Police and CPS that offered no obstacle to BT and Phorm and refused to enforce the law.

The trail of Freedom of Information requests about the government’s involvement with Phorm reveals something of a tangled web.  A web which the Cabinet Office has decided it wants investigated no further. Why is that?  Potentially embarrassing for someone high up in “government”?  So much for fairness and responsibility.  No-one in “government” had the cojones to take responsibility for telling BT and Phorm that they were breaking the law.

After a public backlash which the “government” ignored, the EU decided there was a case to answer.  It initiated legal action against the “government” for its failure to enforce the law.  That the EU has stood up for internet privacy is to their credit but to the shame of the “government”.

The eurosceptics, be they from the Conservative party or UKIP, have said that the EU already records and monitors internet activity.  Let’s be clear on this.  The EU passed a law requiring ISPs to keep logs and retain them for law enforcement purposes.  Surely even the most half-witted will recognise that law enforcement follows a due process.  A process which can be challenged if it is not followed correctly.

The Phorm system is nothing to do with law enforcement.  It is for advertising.  Big difference there.  A very big difference there.

As the centre right and right wing parties are mentioned here, let’s mention their effort in this case.


The Parliamentary response to the issues raised by the Phorm case has been even more pathetic than Gordon Brown’s performance this morning.  To my knowledge only Earl Northesk and Baroness Miller have come out and spoken against Phorm in either of the Houses of Parliament.  Only two people out of the entirety of the two Houses.

That fact should shame every sitting Parliamentarian, whatever their party and whichever house they occupy.  The APComms Inquiry came about purely as a reaction to the public backlash against BT and Phorm; “We’d better be seen to be doing something!”

The EU may not be perfect.  It may well have its own agendas but it is the only governmental presence that has had the cojones to stand up and hold those who failed to enforce the law to account.  Not the Labour “government”, not the Conservative opposition, not the Liberal Democrats.  Until that happens the vocal EU critics can keep their counsel.  The EU is doing what you aren’t.

Nothing I’ve seen from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour has persuaded me that under their government another Phorm-a-like wouldn’t be stopped dead in its tracks.  At least Dominic Grieve has made a start in that direction, if not a very promising one.

There’s one simple question I would ask of all MPs, party activists and the various trouble stirrers out there on the internet:

What Did You Do?

If you did nothing then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Published incampaigningethicsFreedom Of InformationgovernmentInternetparliamentaryPolicingprivacyTechie