The European Commission (EC) is stepping up its campaign to ensure that the privacy and data protection rights of UK citizens are fully preserved, and has warned the UK government to get its house in order.
The EC has moved to the second stage of an infringement proceeding against the UK that has questioned whether its citizens have the protection of European rules on privacy and data protection when using electronic communications and media.
Because this has not been the case so far, the EC plans to send the UK government what it describes as a "reasoned opinion". Much of the campaign activity is thought to surround the recent BT/Phorm controversy.
"People's privacy and the integrity of their personal data in the digital world is not only an important matter, it is a fundamental right protected by European law. That is why the EC is vigilant in ensuring that European Union rules and rights are put in place," said Viviane Reding, European commissioner for information society and media.
"Ensuring digital privacy is a key for building trust in the internet. I therefore call on the UK authorities to change their national laws to ensure that British citizens fully benefit from the safeguards set out in EU law concerning confidentiality of electronic communications."
The EC has identified three ways in which the UK might be failing its citizens: the absence of an independent national authority that supervises the interception of communications; a Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act that does not comply with its own rules; and the absence of sufficiently tight laws to ensure sanctions against parties guilty of any unlawful interception of information.
The UK has two months to reply to the second-stage infringement proceeding. If the EC receives no reply, or if the response is not satisfactory, it may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
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