Phorm and UK government under fire

16 April 2009

BRUSSELS: The European Commission has criticised the British government's stance on the targeted online advertising service operated by Phorm, which the EU's executive arm argues has undermined consumer privacy in the UK.

Phorm's system tracks web users' online behaviour and delivers targeted ads based on the results, and was approved by the UK government despite considerable opposition from its opponents.

Viviane Reding, the EU's telecoms commissioner, argued that "behavioural advertising can be useful for businesses and consumers," but must be "used in a way that complies with EU rules."

Following a number of complaints from internet users, and after "following the Phorm case for some time," the Commission has identified "several problems" in the way the UK has "implemented EU rules ensuring the confidentiality of communications."

As such, Reding argues the British government should change national laws in order to ensure "that national authorities are duly empowered and have proper sanctions at their disposal to enforce EU legislation on the confidentiality of communications."

If it does not take appropriate steps to remedy the Commission's concerns, the institution could begin a legal process forcing what it considers to be an appropriate change in the rules.

Data sourced from Brand Republic; additional content by WARC staff