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The European Commission has started legal action against Britain over online data pirate Phorm. The move follows complaints to the EC over how the behavioural advertising ’service’ was tested on the BT broadband network without the knowledge or permmission of users. “Last year Britain had said it was happy Phorm conformed to European data laws,” says the BBC, but, “the commission has said Phorm ‘intercepted’ user data without clear consent and the UK need to look again at its online privacy laws.” Technology used by Phorm is called DPI Deep Packet Inspection. We call it Deep Privacy Invasion, “and its use as a means of mining private and personal online data now comprises a major threat around the world,” p2pnet said recently. “Which? magazine, The Telegraph, Google/UK Press Association and Channel 4 all pulled articles over Phorm Inc. (BT/Webwise) legal threats,” said Wikileaks, going on »»» Which? magazine, an independent non-profit magazine published by the Consumers Association in the UK, carried out a survey of their readership over British ISP proposals to have Phorm Inc. intercept their customers Internet communications, and inject advertisements based on behavioral profiles. The product Phorm are promoting is called Webwise, and Phorm have entered into initial agreements with three large ISP’s, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk who between them cover about 70% of the UK broadband market. Similar plans by NebuAd in the United States have attracted Congressional Interest and this form of Internet tracking has been put on hold in the USA. When the magazine was published Phorm Inc. immediately applied legal pressure to the Consumers Association. A follow up press release from CA notified publishers of Phorm’s objections to the survey and requested that they not publish articles based on the findings in the survey until matters had been resolved between CA and Phorm. Articles published online by the Press Association, the Daily Telegraph, and a video news report on Channel 4 were immediately taken offline, apparently in response to this legal pressure, and a report in the online version of the Daily Mail was heavily edited to remove references to the Which? survey. The Register has an accessible description of the story. At the UK Convention on Modern Liberty this week, speakers expressed concern at an increasing tendency for UK libel law to be manipulated by ‘dodgy characters’ from all over the world who use UK courts to suppress valid investigative journalism. Phorm boss Kent Ertugrul tangled with father of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “in a tense encounter at a discussion on internet privacy at the Houses of Parliament,” said The Register in a post about a packed event sponsored by UK Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller and organised by Alex Hanff’s privacy activist website http://www.NoDPI.org Ertugrul, “annoyed not to have been asked to appear on the panel,” sought to defend Phorm’s [DPI - Deep Privacy Invasion] technology, “by comparing its behavioural targeting to that done by advertising networks that work with website owners to track surfers as they browse the web,” said the story. But, “To allow someone to snoop on your internet traffic is to allow them to put a television camera in your room, except it will tell them a whole lot more about you than the television camera,” said Sir Tim. Now, a spokeswoman from the commission told the BBC the EC wants the UK to, “ensure there were procedures in place to ensure ‘clear consent from the user that his or her private data is being used’,” says the BBC, continuing, At present, UK law only covers “intentional” interceptions and requires there only to be a “reasonable grounds for believing” that consent to interception has been given. “Technologies like internet behavioural advertising can be useful for businesses and consumers but they must be used in a way that complies with EU rules,” the EU’s Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement. She added: “We have been following the Phorm case for some time and have concluded that there are problems in the way the UK has implemented parts of the EU rules on the confidentiality of communications.” Ms Reding said Britain needed to to change its national laws to ensure there were proper sanctions to enforce EU confidentiality rules. Unless Britain complies, Ms Reding has the power to issue a final warning before taking the country to the 27-nation EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice. If it rules in favour of the European Commission, the court can force Britain to change its laws.