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4/14/2009
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EU Says UK Privacy Laws Lacking

European watchdogs say Britain needs to impose stricter controls on targeted Internet advertising.

The European Commission has taken steps to sue the United Kingdom over targeted advertising rules it says violate EU privacy laws.

The European Commission told the United Kingdom that its laws on so-called Phorm technology, which enables ISPs to track Web surfing for behavioral ads, aren't stringent enough to prevent companies from obtaining personal data on Internet users without their consent.

"Technologies like Internet behavioral advertising can be useful for businesses and consumers but they must be used in a way that complies with EU rules," Viviane Reding, EU telecommunications commissioner, said in a statement Tuesday. "We have been following the Phorm case for some time and have concluded that there are problems in the way the U.K. has implemented parts of the EU rules on the confidentiality of communications."

Internet users have complained to the commission that "Phorm" was tested without clear user consent. U.K. laws apply only to "intentional" gathering of personal information and require companies to have "reasonable grounds for believing" that users have given their consent. EU laws require clear consent.

"I call on the U.K. authorities to change their national laws and ensure that national authorities are duly empowered and have proper sanctions at their disposal to enforce EU legislation on the confidentiality of communications," Reding said.

If the United Kingdom does not strengthen its laws, the commission can issue a final warning, and then take the country to court to try to force it to change its laws so they comply with EU laws.

InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization by May 1.

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