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House of Lords written question – answered on 20th May 2008.

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Photo of The Earl of Northesk The Earl of Northesk Conservative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether any official or Minister in the Home Office has offered written or oral advice to any executive of the company Phorm as to the legality of their targeted advertising software product; if so, what was the advice; in what circumstances was it given; and what was the justification for giving it.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

The Home Office was asked by a number of parties, including Phorm's legal representative, for a view on the compatibility of targeted advertising services with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. It provided a guidance note for those parties.

The note is not, nor was it intended to be taken as, a definitive statement or interpretation of the law, which only a court can give. Nor was it intended for publication. However, a copy of that note has been published at

Working to protect the public, the Home Office is keen to help industry understand its legislative responsibilities, and to work with business in order to achieve a workable balance between commercial interests and public safety. In this way potential legal obligations can be taken into account in the conception of new products and services.

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Felix Cat UK
Posted on 27 Feb 2010 3:16 pm (Report this annotation)

The Home Office official who prepared that document told the recipients;

"If you can agree this, I can issue it to you properly for you to send to whomsoever you wish (and I'll be doing similarly)"

and even

"Please feel free to make the attached document available to your clients, who may in turn share it with their clients and prospective clients"

....which is a very peculiar choice of words for a document that Lord West claims was never intended for publication.

Cryptome was a strange choice for Lord West to use as a vehicle Home Office publications;

"Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance -- open, secret and classified documents -- but not limited to those."