23rd Oct 2016


EU takes Britain to court over online data protection

  • Advertisers can target British internet users according to which sites they visit (Photo: caruba)

The European Commission on Thursday (30 September) said it is to take the United Kingdom to court for not fully implementing data privacy rules for online users and allowing service providers to use "behavioural advertising" based on the websites visited by web surfers.

The legal case follows complaints from UK internet users who claim to have been spammed with ads as a result of so-called deep-packet inspections revealing the patterns of their daily online activities. Despite requests made last year by the commission, London has so far failed to amend its legislation so that it complies with EU law.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under community rules, member states need to "ensure the confidentiality of the communications and related traffic data by prohibiting unlawful interception and surveillance." Also, online users need to be asked for "freely given specific and informed consent" before being targeted by ads. Britain also has failed to establish sanctions in case of infringements and no independent authority is in charge of supervising implementation.

The current UK law authorises interception of communications not only where the persons concerned have consented to interception but also when the person intercepting the communications has "reasonable grounds for believing" that consent to do so has been given.

British authorities are punishing only "intentional interception", whereas EU law requires that members states prohibit any unlawful interception and ensure sanctions against such activity regardless of whether it was on purpose.

The original case was brought after British Telecoms (BT) angered consumers by running two secret trials of deep-packet inspection technology on broadband customers, without their consent, during 2006 and 2007.

"This is great news: [the case] showed there are big holes in the UK privacy laws. We need an official body to deal with citizens' complaints about illegal commercial interception and enforce our legal privacy rights," Jim Killock, from the Open Rights Group, a London-based pressure group campaigning for online privacy, said in a statement.

"More and more technologies can break our privacy rights. UK law needs to provide real protection," he added.

British authorities meanwhile expressed their "disappointment" over the commission's decision.

"We are planning to make changes to address the commission's concerns, and will be setting out more detail on any necessary amendments or legislation in due course," the Home Office said in a statement.

Ceta failure deepens EU trade crisis

Canada said on Friday that the free-trade agreement with the EU had failed and that the bloc was "not capable" of concluding agreements.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity