Government under fire over Phorm 'collusion'

Phorm and Home Office in cahoots, according to latest BBC reports
Phorm and Home Office in cahoots, according to latest BBC reports

The BBC has accused the UK's Home Office of colluding with online ad company Phorm with the government giving the controversial service 'informal guidance' on becoming legal.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokeswoman Baroness Sue Miller said that e-mails exchanged between the Home Office and Phorm were "jaw dropping".

A Home Office spokesperson hit back at the Beeb's accusations, claiming: "We have repeatedly said since these documents were released a year ago that the Government has not endorsed Phorm or its technology.

"We are committed to protecting the privacy of UK consumers and will ensure any new technology of this sort is applied in an appropriate and transparent manner, in full accordance with the law and with proper regulation from the appropriate authority."

Denials and cover-ups

The Home Office previously denied that it provided "any advice to Phorm directly relating to possible criminal liability for the operation of their advertising platform in the UK".

It now appears that, according to an e-mail dated August 2007, an unnamed Home Office official wrote to Phorm's lawyers, to inform them: "My personal view accords with yours, that even if it is "interception", which I am doubtful of, it is lawfully authorised under section 3 by virtue of the user's consent obtained in signing up to the ISPs terms and conditions."

Jim Killock, executive director of privacy campaigners, the Open Rights Group, said: "The Home Office's job is to uphold the law: not to reinterpret it for commercial interests.


Adam Hartley