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Internet: Privacy

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was their response to the European Commission following the infraction proceedings commenced in April 2009 by the Commission for non-implementation of the European Community laws protecting internet users under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) with regard to the interceptions which occurred during the BT Phorm trials of web traffic of United Kingdom citizens; and whether they will publish their response. [HL4494]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Home Office was the lead department responding to the European Commission's infraction proceedings for non-implementation of the European Community laws protecting internet users under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) with regard to the interceptions which occurred during the BT Phorm trials of web traffic of United Kingdom citizens; and which other departments contributed to the response.[HL4495]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what reply they have received from the European Commission following their response to the Commission's infraction proceedings for non-implementation of the European Community laws protecting internet users under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) with regard to the interceptions which occurred during the BT Phorm trials of web traffic of United Kingdom citizens.[HL4496]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they had communications with the European Commission prior to the Commission's infraction proceedings for non-implementation of the European Community laws protecting internet users under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) with regard to the interceptions which occurred during the BT Phorm trials of web traffic of United Kingdom citizens; and, if so, whether the content of those communications has been published.[HL4497]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the principal issues involved in the European Commission's infraction proceedings for non-implementation of the European Community laws protecting internet users under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) with regard to the interceptions which occurred during the BT Phorm trials of web traffic of United Kingdom citizens; what resolution was proposed; and what action was taken thereon. [HL4498]

In July 2008 the European Commission commenced an exchange of letters with the UK Government on the issue of targeted online advertising in the UK. Those letters have not been published, although I understand one letter is in the public domain.

The Commission's interest was triggered by the response to the British Telecom announcement (April 2008) that it had conducted two secret trials (in 2006 and again in 2007) of targeted online advertising using technology provided by a company known as Phorm. Neither the Home Office nor any other government department had knowledge of those trials.

In April 2009 the European Commission sent a formal notice of infringement to the UK Government in relation to the Commission's concerns about the UK's implementation of European electronic privacy and personal data protection directives. The Government's response to the Commission was lead by the Home Office following consultation with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Ministry of Justice and the Cabinet Office. It would not be appropriate to disclose the contents of that response while the Commission is still considering it and related matters.

The Commission has not yet replied to the UK's response. It remains unclear whether the BT trials amounted to interception and indeed whether any such interception would be unlawful. It would be for the relevant prosecuting authorities and ultimately a court to make that determination.