Campaigner fights on for BT-Phorm prosecution

Alexander Hanff is seeking to privately prosecute BT and Phorm over ad-serving trials conducted without customer consent

Despite police indifference, a privacy activist is continuing to push for prosecution of BT and Phorm for trials conducted in 2006 and 2007.

Alexander Hanff [pictured], a technologist who campaigns against Phorm's targeted advertising product, wrote on his No Deep Packet Inspection blog on Tuesday that he would be submitting evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the trials. Hanff claims the interception of data packets to serve targeted ads contravened the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

"It would seem that I now need to hand all the evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service directly (effectively bypassing the City of London Police), at which point they will decide whether or not to prosecute," wrote Hanff.

The campaigner had previously handed a file to City of London police, asserting that in conducting the trials, BT had broken a number of data-protection and privacy laws, including the Data Protection Act, as customer consent had not been gained.

In September, City of London police dropped their investigation, prompting Hanff to approach the CPS directly. Prosecutors will now look at the evidence gathered by Hanff, to decide whether to seek permission from the director of public prosecutions to move forward.

To launch a prosecution, the CPS must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a 'realistic prospect of conviction' against BT and Phorm, and that it would be in the public interest to prosecute.

Hanff told ZDNet.co.uk on Wednesday that he "won't stop until all options are exhausted". In an email interview, Hanff said that, if the CPS decides not to proceed with the case, then he would seek judicial review, petition the European Commission, and consider applying to bring a case before the European Court of Human Rights.

"Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights grants all members of Europe the right to privacy in their private lives and communications," wrote Hanff.

The privacy campaigner added that, should a case proceed, he will seek an injunction to stop BT or Phorm deploying the technology in the UK, until a judgement is made.

BT and Phorm declined to comment on Wednesday.

BT conducted further Phorm trials at the end of September 2008, after delays of over six months. It gained customer consent for the September 2008 trials.

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