back to article EU threatens 'formal action' against on Phorm

The European Commission has given its strongest signal yet that it will hold the UK government to account for its failure to act over BT and Phorm's secret and allegedly illegal internet monitoring trials in 2006 and 2007. Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding has again demanded answers from the UK as to why no enforcement …


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  1. Jonathan

    Thank you EU!

    How I love thee.....

    Its... really kind of funny to see the UK gov not able to give the EU a satisfactory answer. Its like when teachers/parents ask kids why they did something naughty - they know quite well that they dont have a good reason, what they really want is an admission of guilt and an apology.

    So fess up UK, do it sooner rather than later.

  2. Dan
    Thumb Down

    Other companies

    Internet rumours abound that Sky are thinking about partnering with Phorm as well, although they have yet to answer my enquiry on the subject. If Sky join in, I'll be going elsewhere.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    An earlier investigation of the secret trials by City of London Police found customers has given "implied consent" for an advertising wiretap, and said a prosecution would not be in the public interest.

    Perhaps a prosecution was in the public interest as without the action the UK is going to get dragged up and served a slapping from the euro beak.. perhaps we were hasty when we slagged COLin P.. perhaps it should be well done COLP. thanks for highlighting the issue further! and draing the public purse with a euro prosecution...

  4. Joe K
    Thumb Up


    Lets string em up!

    As the banks have shown, executives that think they are above the law are scum that must be punished as hard as possible.

    *high fives El Reg*

  5. Qneiform
    Thumb Up

    Attack that, libertarian EU-haters

    Come on Tim ... give it your best shot!

    Lots of love,


  6. Anonymous Coward

    Double Standards

    When the EU suggests the UK gov do something that vastly upsets the UK public .gov do ti and say "The EU made us". When EU tells to stop upsetting the public the Ogv say "We are looking into it, and will keep a watching brief etc (which means NO, we do what we want).

    UK gov wants Phorm so they can crack down on terror (I mean spy on us all)

  7. psychochief
    Thumb Up

    rap talk or wat ?? :O)

    god bless ya viv, its a good job her mobs paying attention, cos one things for sure, the 'old school tie brigade' are in control with the likes of BT, BBC, etc etc how many times do we see, so called uk 'watchdogs' turn a blind eye to their school chummy mates underhand/illegal business practices !!!!!!!!!

    go go go viv, kick um in the nuts, public schoolboys dont like that, dont ya know, toodle pip, woooooooooooooooooooot :O)

    paris cos even she knows when she's had a good stuffin O_O

  8. Anonymous Coward

    bungs all round

    An earlier investigation of the secret trials by City of London Police found customers has given "implied consent" for an advertising wiretap, and said a prosecution would not be in the public interest...

    While fat brown paper packeges were being places in pockets

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Wot I think

    Wot I think:

    BT hopes that Phorm folds in order to get BT off the hook of having to implement a deeply unpopular and PR-unfriendly datacentre-based spyware platform that they possibly can't otherwise abandon.

    Phorm eventually folds, although not until a few folks have maybe benefited from a pump-and-dump - hence rather unlikely "It's definitely happening" announcements in the press.

    But... now BT are on another hook, courtesy of the EU. Oh dear.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice timing

    Given phorm's recent "biggin' it up"statement on deployment. Should shave a few pennies off the share price.

    I think we're stuffed though. Ofcom's chief industry apologist has recently pronounced his (really really unsurprising) love for such technology, which is about as near to a statement of approval as we've had from, although Carter's pathetic report also seems to give phorm a nod as a getout from the government stumping up any cash for fibre. The runes ain't looking too crisp.

    The government are currently in the process of re-mangling RIPA to criminalise us all a little bit more, and my money is firmly on a very NuLab synergistic fix for the phorm problem. Simply make it totally and unambiguously legal for businesses to turn our private activities into hard cash, with no ifs ands or buts except the usual token unenforceable caveats - Ofcon is a perfect model for how this bit will work, and may well be the so-called regulators.

    Apart from the obvious cash benefits, I just wonder if they won't include every paranoiacs worst nightmare and stipulate that the system has to provide the gov with the 'net data they need to populate their great database of tittle tattle and inuendo. That really would be the NULab miracle at work - we pay to get spied on and investigated while generating cash for the capitalists. I reckon they'll find it hard to resist.

    I consider myself slightly left of Karl Marx, but after much soul searching I've decided I will be voting Tory at the next election. They won't do any better, but it's the only revenge possible on this shower that has any meaning at all.

  11. Luther Blissett

    Some outstanding rephorm business

    Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. I do not see any of the latter. (Maybe it is not in the public interest). Perhaps it was supposed to be the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regular Tory Reform and a typist made a transcription error.

  12. Florence Stanfield

    Well done EU

    I am pleased to see that the EU have not been wined and Dined like was posted in the discussions on Phorm on the shareholder site.

    We need firm help from EU or the right to bring a class action against BT, Phorm and any Lord, MP, EUP civil servant even OFCOM if they been accepting any form of enhancement to help bring in Phorm.

    This is not a legal way to target adverts it is still the same 121media method just now placed on the network to enforce your acceptance of your privacy, human rights stolen from your control.

    Time to take back our own personal details and only allow those we feel we can trust. If we have to give BT or any company, official body etc then it should be illegal for them to share them with any other company regardless of if a partner or not.

    Time is changing the public will win their privacy back if it is at the expense of BT managers who support Phorm so be it.

  13. delboy

    Glad to hear it

    This is another reason why I'm pro Euro, the government needs someone to answer to.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punishment? Let's hope so.

    As Joe K pointed out, Yay! Let's punish these lying manipulative scumbags.

    Unfortunately, the punishment looks like it might just be some twat saying "We humbly apologise" and that will be it. Certainly, the greedy bankers seem to be getting away with just that. A couple of hours in front of a select committee, two minutes on the news, then away in their chauffeur driven cars to count their cash again.

    The difference, as far as I can see, is that in the BT/Phorm case, they specifically and explicitly broke the law. There should be consequences.

    Note that this is probably what a load of politicians will also say, "There should be consequences".

    Now, not the use of the word "should". This is not the same as saying "There will be consequences". I noticed Alistair Darling using this lawyer's trick recently when referring to the bankers.

  15. Bobby


    I think BT are struggling to buy EU silence on this matter..

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    there is a bigger picture re phorm?

    If it goes ahead, how long before all the other ISP's have it, or it is a legal requirement, and will all this loverly useless info end up in the Uber Database.

  17. Wokstation

    I used to be really anti-EU

    Until I realised they actually protect us from our own Government.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Labour = Whitewash Labour

    And that's coming from a life long Labour supporter. - Not any more!

    Once you look hard enough, the devils in the detail. I hope the EU Screws them hard.

  19. 7mark7

    I looked in earlier ...

    ... and I thought there were more comments here.

    Has there been a pruning? I could be wrong.

    I know the most dangerous animal is a wounded one and they do tend to lash out in their death-throws.

  20. The Cube
    Thumb Up

    Go Viviane Reding

    Well, it is clear that Ms Reding has more balls than the entire UK govermnent put together and is a perfectly suitable replacement for Information Commissionaire (whose job is clearly to hold the door open for corporates stealing citizens data).

    I don't believe that there is a single member of the government left with a principle they haven't sold for corporate support or cash. It is time to get rid of the lot of them and start again, bunch of immoral, corrupt, self serving leeches...

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Go, go EU!

    Why can't the EU stop pussy footing around and just bring into court? The idea of watching Mandelson et al with egg on face just really appeals. And if it drags in those arrogant s.o.b.s at BT in then all the better.

    Personally I can't see the CPS allowing a prosecution. After all, if BT/Phorm lose then it kind of makes City Of London Police look like a load of useless danglers. And speaking of CoLP, I'd be interested to hear their justification of how one can give 'implicit consent' to something of which you are not aware - or do they operate on a "unless you say 'no' (repeatedly?) you mean 'yes'" policy.

    I wish the EU and the folks bringing the private prosecution all the best - the sooner that Phorm is treated in the same manner as a leaky bag full of rabid wolverines, the better! And remember to say "ODFO" to any ISP that brings them in!

  22. Midnight_Voice
    Paris Hilton

    Excellent News!

    Phorm is illegal in about six different ways, but the UK government is deeply scared to act, lest the ruling given would also have the wider implication of scuppering their own plans for using DPI on all us law-abiding citizens.

    So more power to the EU's elbow - right must triumph here.

    Paris, because she knows all about being scuppered unexpectedly

  23. David Pollard

    ECJ or ECHR?

    Although it's encouraging that the European Commission seems to be getting closer to enforcement action through the European Court of Justice, this may be more a sign of a squabble over who has control over interception, both state and commercial, than a desire to protect internet users.

    Does anyone know the process for taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights?

    The ECHR verdict on retention of DNA samples and profiles last December was strongly opposed to intrusive invasion of privacy. Perhaps because it is largely outside the internecine politics of the EU this might be an appropriate avenue through which to mount a challenge to behavioural profiling by ISPs.

    See, e.g.,

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Implied consent

    "An earlier investigation of the secret trials by City of London Police found customers has given "implied consent" for an advertising wiretap"

    Oh really? How was it 'implied'? In the same way that someone who gets stabbed implicitly consents for the knife to enter their bodies by standing in its way?

  25. Ash


    Wow... Erm...

    It's been so long since i've seen someone stand up for the rights of consumers that I've forgotten how to react appropriately.

    I think I might go get very drunk.

  26. Alex
    Thumb Up

    BT, Phorm & The ICO

    I sincerely hope that:

    BT gets clobbered with a serious fine, the managers & directors are individually prosecuted


    Kent Endwhistle gets bankrupted and blacklisted


    the ICO resigns without pension.

  27. Graham

    Could get interesting...

    Ive been following the debacle for a while now and what Im wondering is this: Does the EU actually have any powers over the UK government when it comes to issues like this?

    The reason Im thinking like this is that the UK government has had 3 seperate occassions to fess up about this little "agreement" they have had with BT regarding these trails, but they have refused to bother, nevermind having the audacity to refuse FOI requests too.

    What Im worried about it that the EU will kick up and fuss and then do what ? Nothing more than likely ?

  28. Mick F

    GO EU

    Kill Phorm off forever.

  29. Irate BT User
    Thumb Up

    About Time!

    The Phorm Equipment was put on the Level Seven Switching Gear on Port 80 http Only!

    Not on any of the fixed streaming media ports you notice but on the Live Private & Commercial hybrid Port containing so much Personal/Private & Commercial Information.

    A Wiretap on this Communication port is inexcusable!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news

    Glad to hear that SOMEONE can make the government respond on this. The silence on this topic from our government and enforcement and regulatory authorities has been deafening. Keep up the pressure please Ms Reding.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EU and the next UK election

    If the present UK government has any sense it will lean on BT and others to comply swiftly - very, very swiftly.

    It would not surprise me the least if EU action were announced some few months before a UK general election (the last thing the country needs is a Tory government)

    Implied consent?

    In the EULA, 6 point print size?

    Will OpenDNS some complexify phorm and phorm hunting?

  32. Steve Lubman
    Thumb Up

    Too Much!

    First, the US Anti-Trust folks announce they are seriously looking into the proposed Ticketmaster merger with Live Nation,

    Now the EU does the right thing and prepares to clobber Phorm and their apologists.

    And all on my birthday!

    After this, I don;t need any other presents other than the inevitable follow thru and *itch-slapping of these greedy crooks.

    Thank you for making my day!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @SIMON HARPHAM : Implied consent

    "An earlier investigation of the secret trials by City of London Police found customers has given "implied consent" for an advertising wiretap"

    Oh really? How was it 'implied'? In the same way that someone who gets stabbed implicitly consents for the knife to enter their bodies by standing in its way?


    I have a hole in my arse, which I think I will get sewn up. I can see what's coming.

  34. Anthony Mark

    the government said it was possible that future deployments would be legal

    it also happens to be possible that aliens may land on Earth next week - it's just not particularly likely.

    Of course, seeing as Parliament is Supreme, and that the Government effectively controls Parliament due to having the majority of seats as well as the Whip, there's nothing stopping them putting a small clause into a huge, pages long Act that is only vaguely related to the issue, that effectively legalises whatever Phorm is doing, even if it's illegal now.

  35. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down


    Barely Trusted

  36. Levente Szileszky
    Thumb Up

    All corporate PoS crooks will be tried eventually...

    All these mOfO crooks, greedy corporate parsitic PoS entities: it seems you all go down on the tube, like a piece of shit, a lot earlier than I thought! :D





  37. Mike Bell

    @delboy: Answerable to the EU?

    "This is another reason why I'm pro Euro, the government needs someone to answer to."

    The bloody government is supposed to be answerable to us, not some unelected cabal that we don't elect and can't sack! It's called 'democracy'. It used to be very popular in this country...

  38. TeeCee Gold badge


    You're saying it's just a matter of agreeing the price then?

    It'll take a bit more than fine dining, this one. This is the EU commission we're talking about, not the House of Lords. I reckon they're in for the full highly-paid sinecure for the family member and envelope stuffed with cash here.

    It'll be badged as "receiving the necessary assurances from HMG", but that's what it'll really be.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suck it up, people.

    There is no level to which this government will not stoop in order to enable commercial organisations to exploit UK citizens, Remember their grandiose plan to introduce super casinos across the whole country? And if it took the Florida Mafia to finance this enterprise, so what? Business is business.

    Phorm is in the business of spying on internet traffic, profiling individual users, and dumping a shitload of unsolicited ads on them. What could be more NuLabour than that? Spying and making loadsa money is the ultimate wet dream for these friends of Kunt.

    The reticence of UK regulatory bodies to get involved in this is clear evidence that they have been told to back off because the government means to make it happen as a justification for their uberdatabase.

    If commissioner Reding is unsuccessful in her attempt to stop this then I guess we'll just have to suck it up and watch as NuLabour bring the UK internet economy to its knees just as they did with the wider economy. People are about to discover that Adblocking software not only makes surfing a much quieter and more pleasant experience, it is the only way they can punish the eavesdroppers.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ECJ - overseas the application of European Union law in the member states and can take action against any member should they not apply accordingly (very unusual for an individual to bring a case before it).

    ECHR - Is not part of the EU, being based on a different treaty with more members. For an individual to bring a human rights case before it they must have already gone through all legal processes in their own country.

    This is the gist as far as I understand...

  41. Iain

    @Mike Bell

    Spot on! I think the next general election is looking very sewn up right now. The battle will be for third place, though I can't really see the Lib Dems winning that one until some kind of proportional representation is introduced. (Then the naysayers will no longer be able to hide behind "they're not going to get it - don't waste a vote!") I for one would like to see British "democracy" become a two-way street again where we (the people) can actually influence how we are governed.

    Can we have a Wacki Jacqui icon, please?

  42. chris


    "An earlier investigation of the secret trials by City of London Police found customers has given "implied consent" for an advertising wiretap"

    -- "honestly guv', she implied consent, so i had sex with her"

    Is still rape.

  43. Paul
    Black Helicopters


    "difficult to explain the secret trials to customers"



    Black helecopter: For the legwork Phorm and BT are doing on behalf of HMG and Whacky Jaqui in controlling us all.

  44. 3x2

    Yes minister

    <...> and the government has refused Freedom of Information Act requests to release its full response<...>

    On what grounds? Terrorism? National security? That it would show exactly what this bunch of fucking crooks have been up to behind our backs?


  45. Anonymous Coward

    Is this the same euro plankton who want BT to intercept and store your communications?

    So we should be grateful for the European input and their disdain over Phorm eh.

    Is this not the same Europe who are happy to provide the UK Government with data retention rules so that they can call on BT and other big communications firms to monitor ISPs' customers and keep private information on them under European data retention rules as revealed by the Home Office?

    They are as bad as each other and the sooner you wake up to it the better.

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