EU mulls UK government Phorm response


The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has endorsed the web monitoring system Phorm, saying it will conform to privacy laws.

The UK government's position was outlined in a response to a letter from the European Commissioner for Media and Telecoms Vivian Reding that questioned whether the online advertising platform had breached data privacy laws.

But the response only said the Phorm platform would operate within the law, without addressing privacy concerns over earlier secret trials involving UK internet users.

The BERR statement did acknowledge that "the possible future use of Phorm technology had raised material concerns". But it added: "The UK authorities are working to ensure that, if it is introduced into the market for internet-based advertising services, this is done in a lawful, appropriate and transparent fashion."

Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for the European Union's Media and Telecoms Commissioner confirmed it had received the response and said the Commission was preparing a legal assessment of the situation.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told IT PRO it had nothing further to add to its previous statements about Phorm in response to the BERR letter, having investigated it and ruled in May that it would take no action against the software firm or BT over its secret trials.

But Phorm issued a statement: "The UK government's position on Phorm's technology reflects our common commitment to transparency," it said.

And the software firm has said in the past that its underlying Open internet Exchange (OIX) technology does not store personal information, internet protocol (IP) addresses or browsing histories and that its future use would involve an opt-out' policy.

The Foundation for Information Policy Research had previously criticised Phorm, claiming it contravened the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.