EC legal pressure on UK over ad target protection

The Commission has moved to the second phase of an infringement proceeding against the UK over failure to provide its citizens with the full protection of EU rules on privacy and personal data protection when using electronic communications. The action stems from complaints over BT’s trial of the Phorm targeted advertising system.

"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. That is why the Commission is vigilant in ensuring that EU rules and rights are put in place," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Ensuring digital privacy is a key for building trust in the Internet. 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."

The Commission maintains its position that the UK is failing to comply with EU rules protecting the confidentiality of electronic communications like email or surfing the Internet, which are provided in the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC and the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. This follows a thorough analysis of the UK authorities' response to the letter of formal notice – the first phase in an infringement proceeding – sent to them by the Commission in April 2009.The Commission launched this legal action following its inquiry into the response given by the UK authorities to UK citizens' complaints about the use of behavioural advertising by internet service providers.

The UK has two months to reply to this second stage of the infringement proceeding. If the Commission receives no reply, or if the response presented by the UK is not satisfactory, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.