The U.K. government has responded to concerns raised by the European Union over the legality of Phorm's ISP-based ad-targeting technology, planned to be rolled out by major U.K. ISPs. In July, the E.U. Information Commissioner, Viviane Reding, requested information and clarification on Phorm's practices from the U.K.'s Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). Phorm is based in London.
Although the BERR has not published its full response to the commissioner, sent last week, it issued a statement today outlining why it believes Phorm can be implemented legally, appropriately, and transparently in the U.K.
"After conducting its enquiries with Phorm, the U.K. authorities consider that Phorm's products are capable of being operated in [a legal manner]," the statement read, if users are "presented with an unavoidable statement about the product and asked to exercise a choice about whether to be involved."
It added that users must easily be able to access information on how to alter their choice to participate in the program any point. Other than that, the BERR seemed satisfied that as long as Phorm does not record or store any personally identifiable information, the technology can be implemented within the boundaries of U.K. law.
In a statement e-mailed to ClickZ News, Phorm said, "The U.K. Government's position on Phorm's technology reflects our common commitment to transparency and superior standards of online privacy. We also believe that revolutionary technologies should be introduced in line with stringent criteria."
When asked exactly what BERR's inquiries entailed, Phorm told ClickZ News it is its policy not to disclose the specific details of meetings with regulatory bodies. The company added that its systems have been through an extensive consultation period with the relevant regulatory and privacy bodies.
"We've done this because we believe that a system which is deeply respectful of consumers' wishes and safety is the only way to proceed," the company's statement read.
Regardless, British Telecom has admitted it conducted trials of Phorm's technology in 2006 without consent from users. It was partly in response to this that commissioner Reding requested further information on Phorm's practices and technology. However, BERR's statement today makes no reference to these trials.
It did, however, close with an assurance that future developments involving Phorm would be closely scrutinized and monitored by U.K. authorities.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
March 19, 2014