Bad Phorm?

April 16th, 2009 by Anya Proops QC

The European Commission has announced that it is mounting a legal challenge in respect of the use of targeted online advertising in the UK. The challenge follows complaints which were made to the Commission in response to BT’s act of testing the technology on BT broadband users without their consent. The technology, which is the brainchild of a company called Phorm, enables internet service providers (ISPs) to profile what sites internet users visit so as to enable advertising companies more astutely to target their adverts on individual users. The Commission has taken the view that the UK has breached EU data protection laws by permitting the deployment of the technology in the absence of user consent. The Information Commissioner’s Office has previously stated that the use of the technology would be permissible if operated on the basis that users have opted in to the system. The Commission’s challenge raises real questions as to the legality of Google’s recently launched behavioural targeting system. See further my post on this system below.