Ministers from the Home Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) have met industry leaders to discuss whether the controversial technology is being used in a "lawful, appropriate and transparent fashion". Advanced computer techniques allow email providers to discover subjects which interest their customers by automatically scanning email messages for key words and phrases. Words typed into search engines may also be monitored. The process allows internet companies to tailor advertising to the interests of each individual user, but it has led to allegations of breach of privacy and even a police investigation. A BERR spokeswoman said: "The possible use of targeted advertising has raised some concerns and the UK authorities are working to ensure that any technology introduced to the market is lawful, appropriate and transparent. "Future developments involving targeted advertising will be closely scrutinised and monitored by the enforcement authorities." Officials aim to ensure that future use of the technology is with customers' consent, that users cannot be traced and that they have the ability to opt out at any time. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is already looking into claims that BT broke privacy laws by using such software made by Phorm, a London-based advertising technology company, without seeking its customers' permission in 2006 and 2007. Alex Hanff, a privacy campaigner, has submitted information on the project to the City of London Police and the CPS. BT has denied the trials breached privacy laws and said it had "sought expert legal advice in advance" of the tests. The Government has itself been accused of breaching the privacy of internet users in a row over the Home Office's multi-billion pound intercept modernisation programme, which aims to build new databases capable of storing vast amounts of computer data as part of the fight against terrorism.
( www.telegraph.co.uk )