Tuesday, 19 May 2009

No. 10 reacts to anti-Phorm petition

Today, I received an automated response from Number 10 reacting to a petition against the deployment by ISPs of Phorm technology to snoop on Internet users and their behaviour. The original petition can be found here. I wasn't altogether convinced by the wording of the petition, but I was interested to see how the government would respond to public pressure on the issue.

In total, 21,403 people signed the petition - a substantial number concerned about the privacy of their browsing habits, which could be translated into marketable data for advertisers. The government's response can be found here. The upshot is that the government claims that only BT have conducted trials using Phorm's technology. They claim that "advertisers and ISPs need to ensure that they comply with all relevant data protection and privacy laws." However, these trials were already undertaken without the knowledge of BT's customers. This seems to go against the government's response that they are "committed to ensuring that people’s privacy is fully protected."

The government response seems to sidestep the issue by deferring to legislation (pdf) enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). They are closely monitoring all progress on this issue.

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