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Internet: Advertising

Volume 478: debated on Monday 23 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if she will review the guidance note her Department has issued on the compatibility of targeted online advertising with existing legislation, with particular reference to the online marketing tool, Phorm; (210914)

(2) what reports she has received on the compatibility of the internet marketing tool Phorm with existing legislation; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what investigations have been carried out by (a) her Department and (b) police forces into the use of the internet marketing tool Phorm.

In response to requests from some companies in the communications industry for a Home Office view on targeted online advertising and the applicability of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), a note was issued in February this year. The note was produced without reference to any particular technology or application. It was not intended for publication, but was disseminated by one of the companies. It can be found at:

http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/pipermail/ukcrypto/2008-March/083561.html

The note expressed a generalised view on whether RIPA was relevant to targeted online advertising. However, it was not formal guidance nor was it a definitive statement of the law. The Home Office has subsequently received a number of representations and reports from interested parties who have expressed their view on this matter. Those representations have not changed the Home Office view, as set out in the note.

The Home Office has not undertaken any investigations into any targeted online advertising services. Investigations of this nature would be a matter for the police, although we are not aware of any such investigations.