Emails secured through an Freedom of Information Act request show exchanges between the British Home Office and Phorm, a highly controversial advertising company that secretly worked with British Telecom to illegally spy on users connecting to its Internet service.
Subsequently the EU has initiated legal action against Phorm for violating European privacy and consumer-protection laws.
The emails, which date back to August 2007, show that Phorm influenced the way authorities decided policy guidelines and that the company repeatedly asked the Home Office if it “has no objection to the marketing and operation of the Phorm product in the UK”.
A UK Home Office official also offered advice on how to skirt British law.
“My personal view accords with yours, that even if it is ‘interception,’ which I am doubtful of, it is lawfully authorized under section 3 by virtue of the user’s consent obtained in signing up to the ISPs terms and conditions,” an unnamed Home Office official said in an e-mail dated August 2007, talking to Phorm’s legal representative.
The Home Office wrote to Phorm again, asking: “I should be grateful if you would review the attached document, and let me know what you think.”
Another email from the Home Office stated: “If we agree this, and this becomes our position do you think your clients and their prospective partners will be comforted.”
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Home Affairs, Baroness Sue Miller, said: “My jaw dropped when I saw the Freedom of Information exchanges. The fact the Home Office asks the very company they are worried is actually falling outside the laws whether the draft interpretation of the law is correct is completely bizarre.”