EU Commision response about Phorm

The following EU Commission letter is a response to my email which directed them to this post regarding the Phorm system which may be trialled by the UK internet service provider BT. The letter basically says that it’s not their job to regulate the UK rather it’s the job of the “competent national authorities” to deal with it, however competent they may or may not be. They refer to the Information Comissioners Office (ICO) and say that they “expect them to investigate any complaints raised with regard to the deployment of Phorm technology by ISPs.”

That at least is a step forward. At least some authority in the UK has been officially assigned the responsibility to take the complaints on board. When I made this complaint in June they were playing catch with the UK Home Office as to whose responsibility it was. The EU comission ends the letter with an encouraging;

The Commission is currently in contact with the UK authorities to clarify in particular the actions of the competent national authorities with regard to the users’ complaints about trials of Phorm technology by BT in 2006 and 2007, as well as the position of the UK authorities regarding the planned future deployment of the Phorm technology, in particular the way in which it is planned to obtain the users’ consent. The commission will continue to follow this case and take appropriate action, should the need arise, to ensure that the relevant EU law is effectively implemented by the UK authorities on this matter. (bold emphasis mine)

I congratulate the EU on recognizing the problem and picking up the phone as well as threatening more if something is not done. I have also drafted another letter which I have issued to the Advocacy committee of the Web Analytics Association which is currently under review.

Steve is a well known analytics specialist, author and speaker. A pioneer since 2002, he established one of the first European web analytics consultancies (Aboavista), later acquired by Satama (now Trainers’ House) in 2006. In 2008 he wrote his first book Cult Of Analytics published on May 14th 2009. He currently serves as CEO at Quru and has presented and keynoted web analytics topics across Europe. These include The Internet Marketing Conference (Stockholm), The Search Engine strategies (Stockholm), IIH (Copenhagen), the IAB Finland (Helsinki), Media Plaza (Amsterdam), Design For Conversion (Amsterdam) The eMetrics Summit (London, Munich, Stockholm), Divia (Helsinki) in addition to sitting on dozens of panels.

Posted in General, Privacy
8 comments on “EU Commision response about Phorm
  1. Oblonsky says:

    Nice follow-up. Just to correct you it’s the Information Commissioner’s Office (not internet).

  2. Thanks. I stand corrected.

  3. Paul says:

    I’d take your email address out if you can

  4. Warescouse says:

    Well Captain Blackbeak. Not only did you win my respect (after a few initial doubts on my part) some time ago on the Cable Forum, you have continued to excel. It is good to know that people like yourself exist, people who are willing to make the effort to learn when they see alternate and conflicting points of view to their own. Those individuals who are strong enough to judge themselves wrong and stand corrected should be held in high esteem. There are far too many people who wear blinkers in life and you are obviously not one of them. I wish you success.

  5. @paul

    Let them come. :)
    @warescouse

    Thanks for the kind comments. Being wrong was the catalyst for all of this. If I can be fooled by this kind of system then other people can. It’s not easy to spot that the technology is an intrusion of privacy.

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. :)

    I have no problem admitting my own errors when I make them. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll doubtless be wrong again but being wrong is OK, failing is not. In my view failure is when you fall short of what you can achieve. I believe that in order not to fail in this respect I need to do everything practical to help raise awareness of the issue.

    One of my skills is writing and one of my strengths is my reputation in my industry which does have a responsibility where privacy is concerned. That’s why I wrote a letter of complaint and drafted another open letter that I hope my colleagues in the Web Analytics Association will use as a public condemnation of the Phorm system in its current iteration.

  6. Mike says:

    A link to what exactly Phorm is would be nice, in addition to a link to your letter (as opposed to only the response).

    Coming in cold, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and now must start searching the web just to get some context!

  7. @Mike

    Sorry about the lack of links. They should have been there with the post it was an oversight on my part. Fixed now.

  8. Mark says:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/12/eu_phorm_letter/

    All those letters were worth it.

    Thanks for your help Blackbeak.

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