UK gets final EU warning over Phorm

The European Commission is now a step away from taking legal action against the UK government over the Phorm trials.

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The European Union has moved closer to taking the UK to court for failing to protect data privacy by not stopping Phorm from running secret trials.

Three years ago, BT let behavioural advertising firm Phorm run secret trials on its networks. In April, the EU charged the UK with breaking European data privacy laws by not protecting citizens against such an intrusion.

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Now, the infringement proceeding has moved to the second phase. The UK has two months to reply, after which the case could go to the European Court of Justice.

"People's privacy and the integrity of their personal data in the digital world is not only an important matter, it is a fundamental right, protected by European law," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement.

"Ensuring digital privacy is a key for building trust in the internet," she added. "I therefore call on the UK authorities to change their national laws to ensure that British citizens fully benefit from the safeguards set out in EU law concerning confidentiality of electronic communications."

It also lambasted the UK for not having a watchdog to keep an eye on communications interceptions, and slammed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) for allowing authorities to look at data without consent and making no guarantees against unintentional interceptions.

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The Home Office said in a statement that it is "firmly committed" to protecting users' privacy, and was considering the commission's letter in order to respond.

Click here for our short history of Phorm.

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