Britain in hot water over Internet surveillance

Chicago (IL) – Since last July, the European Commission has been sending letters to the British government after investigation of behavioral advertising tactics. It’s illegal in Europe, it is not in the UK. Amazon, however, is bigger than the British Government and has banned the controversial technology at the heart of the controversy. Hooray for running dogs of capitalism over Big Brother this time.

The Europeans take behavioral advertising seriously. They don’t like it, and they don’t want their citizens to have anything to do with it on the Internets, which is a nasty American invention that threatens to take away everyone’s mandated two months of vacation. The present investigation into Britain’s take on it revolves around broadband trials by the UK’s telecomm giant, BT, and the heart of the controversy, the Phorm Advertising System. Phorm builds a profile of you based on the pages you visit and keywords – and delivers targeted advertising on that basis.

The UK authorities did not take any action and the feeling was that the customers consented to being monitored. The Commission is more concerned with the implication to wider ranging adoption of surveillance and monitoring in the private sector. And feeling their pain is Amazon, officially the world’s largest online retailer, which announced that it has banned Phorm from scanning its pages.  We’ll have to wait and see if this has any repercussions for the European Commission’s dealings with Britain. In the meantime, we are going to buy another couple of Kindles and polish up our Jeff Bezos bronze.

“We’re not satisfied that the UK is adequately protecting citizens’ data,” a Commission spokesman said. “There is a structural problem. We wouldn’t use that word unless we believed it was a serious case.”

He added: “Unlike in European law, it is often harder in the UK to prove that data has been misused. Even if that happens, there are no serious measures. Other countries have fines and can even impose a criminal offence.” [Times Online]