Oops, third-party liability

Gov advisors: Phorm is illegal | The Register

The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), a leading government advisory group on internet issues, has written to the Information Commissioner arguing that Phorm’s ad targeting system is illegal. In an open letter posted to the think tank’s website today, the group echoes concerns voiced by London School of Economics professor Peter Sommer that Phorm’s planned partnerships with BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse are illegal und the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The letter, signed by FIPR’s top lawyer Nicholas Bohm, states: “The explicit consent of a properly-informed user is necessary but not sufficient to make interception lawful. “The consent of those who host the web pages visited by a user is also required, since they communicate their pages to the user, as is the consent of those who send email to the user, since those who host web-based email services have no authority to consent to interception on their users’ behalf.”

I hadn’t thought about that one. But of course this data will be as useful for profiling vendors and information providers as it will for profiling customers. Especially when you’re looking for people to buy the ads that the service is supposed to be serving. Of course, the email thing is kinda weird, because it means that by spamming someone with the right keywords you could possibly determine what ads they see from others. Or you could send a private note and wind up on the receiving end of some very targeted marketing…

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