BT, Phorm Not Prosecuted by UK Authorities for Interception of Browsing Data

By Ed Silverstein April 12, 2011

British regulators have decided not to prosecute BT or Phorm on a charge of interception of Internet browsing data, according to a UK government website.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided not to begin a court action even though the case appears not to be fully investigated.

“After a thorough review of the available evidence, the CPS has decided there is currently insufficient evidence to begin a prosecution under section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 and it would not be in the public interest to proceed any further,” the CPS said in a statement posted on its website.

The inquiry centered around how PageSense software from Phorm – which was used by BT – had left a cookie on users’ computers and secretly collected information on their browsing habits. The users then were targeted with Web-based ads.

The technology was used on some 18,000 BT customers in 2006.

"We have thoroughly reviewed all of the material supplied by the individual who wished for us to consent to a prosecution, as well as the evidence provided by City of London Police, BT and Phorm. On the basis of the evidence gathered and with advice from legal and technical experts, we have determined the extent and seriousness of the alleged criminality,” Andrew Hadik, a lawyer for CPS, said in a statement. "At present, the available evidence is insufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. In the vast majority of cases, we would only decide whether to prosecute after the investigation had been completed and after all the available evidence had been reviewed. In rare cases, however, it may become clear prior to the collection and consideration of all the likely evidence that a prosecution would not be in the public interest.”

"We have concluded a prosecution would not be in the public interest. As such, consent to a prosecution cannot be given," he added.

The CPS noted how: BT and Phorm cooperated with police investigators; the interception is unlikely to occur again; the collected data were destroyed; and another investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office led to no legal action.

In other recent BT news, BT Wholesale will extend the availability of next generation copper broadband and offer customers speeds of up to 20Mbps, and enable exchanges for about 80 percent of UK residences and businesses by the end of this year, according to a report from TechZone360.


Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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