UK drops BT spying case
British Telecom won’t be prosecuted for spying on its fixed broadband users due to a lack of evidence, and is unlikely to face further scrutiny over the matter.
The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claims prosecuting the telco and partner Phorm for collecting data on user’s browsing habits is not in the public interest, and that it is satisfied the pair acted in good faith.
One of the 18,000 users involved called for BT to be prosecuted for trialing the software without subscriber’s consent in 2006. Partner Phorm developed the software – originally named PageSense, but later called Web Wise -, which gathered browser information in a bid to offer targeted advertising.
“At present, the available evidence is insufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction,” CPS review lawyer Andrew Hadik explains. “We would only take such a decision if we were satisfied that the broad extent of criminality had been determined and that we could make a fully informed assessment of the public interest.”
The CPS reasons that the courts would apply only a nominal penalty against the firms because they had received legal advice that the unannounced trial would not breach the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, and halted the trial quickly after discovering that it might. BT was also let off the hook because the data was not processed by humans and was destroyed after use.
Further claims BT and Phorm broke laws covering unlawful interception of data were also rejected.