The EU yesterday moved to the next stage of an infringement proceeding, saying the UK has failed to provide its citizens with the full protection of EU rules on privacy and personal data protection when using electronic communications. "European laws state that EU countries must ensure the confidentiality of people's electronic communications like e-mail or Internet browsing," said the EU in a release, "by prohibiting their unlawful interception and surveillance without the user's consent. As these rules have not been fully put in place in the national law of the UK, the Commission today said that it will send the UK a reasoned opinion."

"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," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement. The European Commission said that there is no independent national authority to supervise interception of communications, and that current UK law authorizes interception of communications not only where the persons concerned have consented to interception but also when the person intercepting the communications has 'reasonable grounds for believing' that consent to do so has been given. The UK has two months to reply. If not resolved, the next step is referral to the European Court of Justice.