Written by Syed Rashidul Islam on 21 November 2010« Return to Reading Room
Infringement procedures: Case against UK
There is a case before the EU's Court of Justice called an "infringement procedure" which has been referred by the EU Commission, and which could lead to a fine for the UK if the judges support the Commission's view.
The Commission started the legal action following trials of the Phorm ad-serving system on BT's network in 2006 and 2007.
The EU began thier investigation last year against the UK, suspecting that UK law provided insufficient safeguards against illegal interception of internet traffic.
The Commission says that under EU law the UK ought to have an independent national authority to supervise interception of communications.
The user's consent is required for any interception of e-mails or internet surfing, the Commission says, objecting to the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which allows a person to intercept communications if he or she has "reasonable grounds for believing" that consent has been given.
The Commission says sanctions are required under EU law for any unlawful interception, whether done intentionally or not, and also argues that EU rules defines consent as "freely given, specific and informed indication of a person's wishes".
Consumer group's reaction
The Open Rights Group, which campaigns for internet transparency, welcomed the Commission's move, and the group's director Jim Killock is quoted as saying "this is great news; Phorm showed there are big holes in the UK privacy laws. We need an official body to deal with citizens' complaints about illegal commercial interception and enforce our legal privacy rights"
UK government response
The Home Office spokesman has said the government was disappointed that the Commission had decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
"We are planning to make changes to address the Commission's concerns and will be setting out more detail on any necessary amendments or legislation in due course," the spokesman said.
It would be intresting to see what sanction the EU court gives and how the UK government responds to those sanctions and changes it makes.
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