Phorm petition fails to get PM's attention

Phorm logo

The Prime Minister's Office has passed off Phorm-related concerns raised in an e-petition to the Information Commissioner's Office.

The e-petition asked the government to investigate advertising firm Phorm's deep packet inspection tech and if found to breach UK or EU data laws ban ISPs from signing up. Some 21,403 have signed the petition, which ended in March.

The government response noted that all advertisers and ISPs must follow data protection and privacy laws, and that web users must be given a "clear and informed decision" about whether to sign up to behavioural advertising systems like Phorm, which looks at network traffic to see which adverts to display.

However, Number 10 clearly puts the responsibility for managing the issue in the hands of the Information Commissioner. "Legislation is in place for this purpose and is enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office. ICO looked at this technology, to ensure that any use of Phorm or similar technology is compatible with the relevant privacy legislation."

The government's response suggested it doesn't want to step on the Information Commissioner's toes. "ICO is an independent body, and it would not be appropriate for the Government to second guess its decisions," it said.

The ICO has previously said it is keeping an eye on the tech, but sees no reason for trials to not go ahead.

The government may be able to pass off an e-petition to the ICO, but the EU has already taken legal action against the UK for failing to follow European privacy laws by allowing the Phorm trial with BT.