Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service is being blasted for refusing to prosecute BT or the advertising outfit Phorm for spying on customers.
Privacy watchdogs fear the CPS has sent a message to big corporations that they are free to violate UK internet users’ rights.
In 2006 and 2007 it was revealed that BT and Phorm were secretly trialling software that tracked peoples’ internet behaviour in order to deliver targeted advertising.
There was an outcry and BT ditched the controversial system in 2009.
Now the CPS has ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute BT and Phorm under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
RIPA made it an offence to intercept internet traffic without either the user’s explicit consent or a judicial warrant.
The move has infuriated Simon Davies, director of the campaign group Privacy International who told the Guardian his organisation would appeal for a judicial review of the CPS ruling.
However he feared that the appeal would “fall flat on its face” into a “legal black hole”.
Davies said that there’s a real risk that big corporations are escaping scot-free whenever they violate the rights of people in the UK. This is because there is no legal infrastructure to tackle these companies.
Budget cuts were forcing law enforcement agencies to be more selective with investigations.
The CPS has said that a prosecution against BT and Phorm “would not be in the public interest”. It claims that the offending was “the result of an honest mistake or genuine misunderstanding of the law” and that there was no evidence that anyone “suffered any loss or harm” as a result of the trial.