Yesterday the European Commission kicked off the legal action against the Government due to the latter failing to protect the privacy of UK internet users, technology.timesonline.co.uk reports.
Phorm, a UK-based company specialized in monitoring the sites and searches internet users visit frequently and using the information collected this way to display individually targeted ads was in fact the factor that triggered the whole case.
The company has drawn the attention of The European Commission especially since it was secretly tested in the UK when it received the Government’s support.
Viviane Reding, the European Union's Commissioner for Information Society and Media, talked about the necessity of such a legal action which comes to ensure that the rights of internet users will be respected in concordance with the ePrivacy Directive, which the UK Government agreed to back in 2002:
"Technologies such as internet behavioural advertising can be useful for businesses and consumers but they must be used in a way that complies with EU rules,” the Commissioner said. “These rules are there to protect the privacy of citizens and must be rigorously enforced by all member states.”
The directive says that user consent must be “freely given, specific, and informed”, and it asks states members of the EU to take measures in case its rules are violated.
Ms Reding’s went on saying in her announcement about the commence of the legal action: “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.”
Following tones of complaints sent by British citizens about the Phorm trials (without their consent), EC officials has sent a letter to Whitehall to inquire about how properly were British internet user protected by law. Here’s an excerpt:
"Following an analysis of the answers received, the commission has concerns that there are structural problems in the way the UK has implemented EU rules ensuring the confidentiality of communications,” the Commission wrote.
The UK Government has been given two months to come up with a response to yesterday’s first stage of an upcoming legal process which may reach the European Court of Justice.