On April 14, 2009, the Commission announced that it has commenced an infringement challenge against the UK over privacy and personal data protection. The Commission is responding to complaints by UK internet users and its own extensive communication with UK authorities, about the use of a behavioral advertising technology known as "Phorm." That technology works by analyzing customers' web surfing to determine their interests and then delivering targeted advertising when they visit certain websites. The Commission says there are "several problems" with the UK's implementation of EU ePrivacy and personal data protection rules relating to the confidentiality of communications and prohibiting interception and surveillance without the user's consent. The press release, IP/09/570, which does not describe those problems in any detail, is available (in English) and (in German): see original document. That same day, Commissioner Reding posted a video on her website, which appeared to broaden the scope of the Commission's concern. She stated that "Europeans must have the right to control how their personal information is used, and said that the Commission would take action wherever EU Member States failed to ensure that new technologies such as behavioral advertising, RFID 'smart chips' or online social networking respected this right." A link to that presentation can be viewed here.
Some information sources on this general topic are the following:
European Parliament Report with a proposal for a recommendation on strengthening security and fundamental freedoms on the Internet, February 25, 2009.
FTC Staff Report on Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising February 12, 2009. Center for Democracy & Technology, A Guide to Behavioral Advertising
Center for Democracy & Technology, Threshold Analysis for Online Advertising Practices, January 28, 2009.
Internet Governance Forum, Workshop 83: The Future of Online Privacy: "Online advertising and behavioral targeting," November 5, 2008.