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EU threatens ‘formal action’ against on Phorm

Chris Williams at The Register has done excellent work in keeping people up to date on the situation with the yet to be proven legal system touted by Phorm.  His latest piece is good news for anyone who values their privacy.  Here’s a snippet:

The European Commission has given its strongest signal yet that it will hold the UK government to account for its failure to act over BT and Phorm’s secret and allegedly illegal internet monitoring trials in 2006 and 2007.

Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding has again demanded answers from the UK as to why no enforcement action has been taken over the wiretapping and profiling of tens of thousands of BT broadband subscribers without any permission or notification. An unsatisfactory response could eventually land the government in the European Court of Justice.

Speaking to The Register today, Reding’s chief spokesman Martin Selmayr said: “The European Commission’s investigation with regard to the Phorm case is still ongoing.”

Selmayr added that the Commission had written to the UK government for a third time at the end of January. “The Commission may have to proceed to formal action if the UK authorities do not provide a satisfactory response to the Commission’s concerns on the implementation of European law in the context of the Phorm case,” he said.

The Commission became interested in the case after Register readers wrote to Viviane Reding last year in dismay at our revelations about the secret trials.

Internet law experts at the Foundation for Information Policy Research, an independent think tank based at Cambridge University, had publicly stated that that BT and Phorm violated the European Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), along with several domestic criminal statutes. Throughout the furore, BT has said it took legal advice prior to co-opting customers into the two trials but has declined to make it public.

There’s a brief history of how these events came to pass in the report – it’s well worth reading and shows the UK “government” in its true light.  On September 17th 2008 I wrote:

The bottom line is that there was no way the UK government would initiate a full investigation into Phorm and BT’s activities. The UK government wants the Phorm technology. Desperately.  Already it has said that it wants to retain full details of every SMS message, every e-mail and all web activity. Phorm will provide a major part of the technology to do this.

Who cares if it’s illegal? Not Gordon Brown, Jacqui Smith and the other Stalinists who want to interfere in every sphere of our lives. If this comes to pass the state of Gordongrad will have a surveillance regime in place that would have given Josef Stalin, Reinhard Heydrich and Erich Honecker perpetual wet dreams. Not even in Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany or East Germany would there have been such governmental interference in the lives of its citizens.

Where is this legal advice BT claims to have received?  Why have they declined to publish it?

Where is the legal advice Phorm claims to have received?  Why have they declined to publish it?

This all adds up to one thing: Gordongrad.  Can it be that only the EU can protect our privacy now?

Published incomputersInternetPoliticsprivacysurveillance state


  1. Poor Cricket FAn

    I found this through an e-mail alert: many thanks for your post. I had no idea about this – shows how dozy I am.

    • Jamie Jamie

      Thanks for commenting :)

      There has been a backlash in the techie communities over this but it hasn’t reached the general public yet, mainly because many of the arguments against Phorm are technical and legal, which is the sort of stuff that doesn’t make good headlines. People working at BT Internet, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse don’t know about their employer’s involvement with Phorm and BT have silenced discussion about Phorm on their forums; the companies involved are doing their best to mask this news and spin this discussion. Because bad news travels fast. The government have refused to investigate BT’s unconsensual testing of Phorm on their live network hiding behind pass the parcel tactics and obfuscation even though the EU has said these tests were illegal.

      Spreading the news about this is the best thing we can do. Embarrass BT Internet, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse by blogging about them, if you’re a customer of theirs then leave for a different ISP citing their involvement with Phorm, write to your MP, make a loud noise about this. That’s what I’m doing.

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