European Commission issues notice over failure to protect private data

EU warns UK over privacy

The EC has initiated the second phase of it infringement proceedings against the UK government over its continued lack of action over use of internet monitoring software.

The Commission was originally moved to investigate following a public outcry in 2007 over BT’s secret trials of the Phorm browser monitoring software, which the ISP claimed was intended to aid targeted advertising.

The current action aims to correct UK policy makers for their continued disregard for the confidentiality of electronic communications and has identified three key loopholes in UK law.

Firstly, there is no national authority to supervise the interception of communications, as required under EU directives.

Secondly, the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) act authorises interception of communications where ever the person being monitored has given consent, however it crucially also authorises it when the person monitoring communications has ‘reasonable grounds for believing’ that consent has been given.

Finally, the RIPA act also only limits its protections to intentional interception only, ‘accidental’ intrusions are not covered by any protection laws whatsoever.

“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.”

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