The consultation is being carried out to meet EU requirements despite the Home Office saying earlier that a meeting with civil liberties groups was unnecessary. It will now meet the Open Rights Group and other organizations this week.
A European Union investigation into how a controversial ad trackng technology, Phorm, was rolled out in the UK, prompted the consultation. The European Commission found that the UK has no legal redress for citizens who think their web browsing or other online activities have been monitored.
This puts the UK in breach of the European e-Privacy directive. Thousands of users of BT Internet services in the UK took part in Phorm trials without their consent. Phorm is one of many firms that tracks web behavior in other to better target advertisements to users.
Jim Killock, chief executive of the Open Rights Group, is not happy with how the consultation is being carried out however. "When the consultation started in November we heard about it through the grapevine rather than a public announcement. We wrote to the Home Office saying they needed to meet with representatives from civil society because the law was about individual rights," he said.
"We were told that the Home Office was only consulting those directly affected, ie those who might get punished, ignoring the fact that those most directly affected are the general public. The consultation is about a very serious matter. What rights should we have as citizens to take legal action against people who intercept our communications? Should criminal as well as civil charges be available? Who should investigate?"
The Home Office wants to extend the power of the Interception Commissioner to issue fines against firms like BT when they slip up in this area. But Killock is entirely unconvinced that this is the correct form of action. "It is talking about fines of around £10,000 which is pocket money to firms such as BT. It is a joke," he said.
He thinks it would make more sense to allow the police to investigate these cases and to provide a one stop shop for privacy complaints from the public.
Written by: James Delahunty @ 1 Dec 2010 13:57