The Foundation for Information Policy Research (Fipr) has published an open letter to the Information Commissioner arguing that online ad system Phorm is illegal in the UK.

Fipr said that Phorm violates the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), which is designed to protect web users from illegal information interception.

Phorm’s system works by “trawling” websites visited by users and then matching keywords from the content of the page to a profile.

Users are then targeted with adverts that are more tailored to their interests on websites that have signed up to Phorm’s technology. BT, Talk Talk and Virgin are among some of the firms that have signed up to use Phorm.

Fipr stressed that Phorm must actively obtain the permission of both web users and web operators before gathering any information.

Nicholas Bohm, general counsel at Fipr, said: “The need for both parties to consent to interception in order for it to be lawful is an extremely basic principle within the legislation and it cannot be lightly ignored or treated as a technicality.”

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