Echoes of Phorm in mobile phone hacking story

Back when the Open Rights Group was campaigning against the targeted advertising company Phorm, one of the discoveries we made was that UK citizens had very few avenues of redress when private companies intercept their communications illegally. The Information Commissioner only regulates data processing (and of course, FOI), and not communications interception. And the Interception of Communications Commissioner is only set up to regulate the interception activities of public authorities, (law enforcement, etc). If you suspect your communications are being intercepted by someone on the make, you either have to put up with it, or persuade the CPS to prosecute.

So I’ve been following the current storm around the illegal “hacking” of MPs’ and others’ mobile phones with some interest. Although it’s not clear to me what this hacking actually consisted of, and whether it could be classed as an interception, it certainly isn’t a matter for the Information Commissioner. Which might explain why invocations of the ICO have gradually disappeared from the rhetoric surrounding possible avenues of redress for those affected.

Of course, if you’re an MP and your communications get intercepted by a private company, you have it in your power to change the law so that private individuals such as yourself can be better protected in the future. Then again, it’s probably much more expedient to the use the resources bestowed on you by the tax-paying public to cover your own arse and leave it at that.

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