|foundation for information policy research|
Continuing concerns about Phorm
RELEASE: 6 April 2008
The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) has responded to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) recent statement on the controversial behavioural advertising system developed by Phorm Inc.
The ICO has acknowledged that there was "considerable public concern" about the user profiling system, but their statement appeared to give the go-ahead for upcoming trials of the system by BT, the country's largest Internet Service Provider.
Nicholas Bohm, General Counsel for the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said:
"We are one of those organisations expressing deep concern. So far the Information Commissioner has neither acknowledged nor replied to our letter of 17 March, which raised serious and important issues.
"We now know that BT have already conducted secret trials of this technology, testing the effectiveness of snooping on their customers' Internet activities. They claim to have received extensive legal and other advice beforehand, but have failed to give the reasoning on which this advice is based.
"As we pointed out in our letter, the illegality stems not from breaching the Data Protection Act directly, but arises from the fact that the system intercepts Internet traffic. Interception is a serious offence, punishable by up to two years in prison. Almost incidentally, because the system is unlawful to operate, it cannot comply with Data Protection principles."
Richard Clayton, FIPR's Treasurer, and author of a recent technical analysis of Phorm's technology, said:
"Phorm have accepted the accuracy of my detailed write-up of the way their system works. Examining the detail makes it crystal clear that our earlier letter came to the right conclusion. Website data is being intercepted. The law of the land forbids this."
Nicholas Bohm added:
"BT now say they will no longer monitor their customers' web browsing without their express permission, but they appear to ignore the fact that they can only legalise their activity by getting express permission not just from their customers, but also from the web hosts whose pages they intercept, and from the third parties who communicate with their customers through web-based email, forums or social-networking sites.
"We sincerely hope that the Information Commissioner will reconsider what appears to be a green light for lawbreaking."
Nicholas Bohm General Counsel, FIPR 01279 870285 nbohm AT ernest.net
Richard Clayton Treasurer, FIPR 01223 763570 07887 794090 treasurer AT fipr.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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