European Union to Intervene over B.T.’s ‘Secret’ Phorm Trial?

The European Union still could intervene in the use of a controversial ad-targeting technology by U.K. ISP British Telecom.

B.T. has admitted it conducted trials of controversial ad-targeting technology from Phorm without the knowledge or consent of its customers, in 2007.

In response to complaints from B.T. customers, the U.K. information commissioner’s office stated in May it would not pursue B.T. over its actions, or potential breaches of European privacy laws.

However, reports this week suggest the European Union could still intervene.

Quoted in a story published by The Register on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media is reported to have said, “This is first of all a matter for the U.K. authorities to deal with, as it is their responsibility to apply E.U. law in the U.K. In case of incorrect application of E.U. data protection law by a national authority, the Commission could start infringement proceedings against the country concerned.”

Conversely however, in a story published by Zdnet today, an information society and media spokesman by the name of Martin Selmayr is quoted as saying, “We are looking into [the BT and Phorm trials], but a national sovereign state’s decision can only be challenged if it commits a serious mistake. We’re looking into it, but so far there has been no indication of that.”

It’s therefore unclear as to where the European Commission currently stands on the matter, but it appears at this point, B.T. is unlikely to be penalized for the trials conducted in 2007.

The ISP is currently carrying out a second round of trials, with the full consent of 7,000 of its customers.

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