An Internet tracking company called Phorm has got Britain into legal hot water. The European Commission has threatened the UK government with court action, saying it is failing to guard confidentiality rights. Phorm watches what sites Internet users visit, to target tailored advertising at them.
Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding warns consumers, on her own website: “Do you want the Internet to turn into a jungle? This could happen you know, if we can’t control the use of our personal information online.” The telecoms authority warned that social networking sites might be forced to conceal under-age users’ profiles from search engines. Electronic microchips in the very goods Europeans buy are also under regulatory scrutiny. European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said: “We also think about the use of Radio Frequency Identification tags which is another new technology some call ‘smart chips’. Others call them ‘spy chips’, which can be implemented in almost every product of your daily life.” As ways to get customers to part with their cash get more sophisticated and subtle, the EU is concerned about privacy. These tools are also used in security systems, such as passport biometrics, and this too is debated. Reding said: “No European should carry a chip without being informed what (it is) for, with the choice to remove (it) or switch it off at any time.”