back to article Net think tank: Phorm is illegal

The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), a leading advisory group on internet issues, has written to the Information Commissioner arguing that Phorm's ad targeting system is illegal. In an open letter posted to the think tank's website today, the group echoes concerns voiced by London School of Economics professor …

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Happy

London Busses...

Talk about bally London Busses coming all at once, what a good news day for those of us who just want an ISP to relay our packets on their way out to the internet, and kindly retrieve and pass back any incoming packets. Is that really too much to ask! THANK YOU FIPR FOR UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES AND MAKING SOME SENSE!

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Watching and waiting

Looking at the share price, willing it to crash and burn :)

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Boffin

I'm starting to feel vindicated

Hopefully not persecuted.

In the long run I think this whole situation will have been less harmful to the ISP's in question to give them a chance to back down a bit rather than if they had gone blindly ahead and suffered the lawsuits after the fact - but I doubt they will see it that way somehow.

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At last !

Can't wait to see lawyers smash grabbit and run kick the crap out of BT :)

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FIPR FTW!

I love the taste of Phorm's tears - there is nothing quite like the tears of greedy individuals whose ambitions have been foiled.

lets hope this goes from being the opinion of a think tank to official policy.

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This needs a wider audience

Specifically, it needs posting on the various share price news fora.

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Rob

@ At last !

It's "Sue, Grabbit & Run", as any fule kno.

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Avi
Joke

What's this?

Government department getting something IT related right?

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Happy

Bad day for Phorm, good for everyone else

TBL and FIPR laying into them, negative coverage all over, shares down some more for most of the day. (Closing price down 167.50p on this morning)

BT have switched to silent running in their support boards, nary a rep to be seen. Oh and Phorm's horrid PR creature has crawled back up it's own arse, having retreated to their own rather pathetic blog*, which naturally doesn't accept anonymous comments. Or possibly any comments at all.

And we haven't even heard a peep from ICO yet.

Hello Phorm, your Shipment Of Fail is ready for you to collect.

* http://blog.webwise.com/ not one single comment posted yet, and don't you just /know/ they've had plenty ?

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Sam

sarcasm

Wept fucking buckets when I read the headline.

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Home Office Advice

I think the Home Office advice was quite clever.

While one suspects that the author was under a certain amount of pressure to come up wit the 'right' answer - one that would not leave BT wide open after last year's covert illegal trials of the Phorm technology - he has listed all the reasons why Phorm might be illegal, and the exact parts of RIPA that they fall under, effectively channelling Phorm into the one path of possible legality which requires the 'implied consent' of visited websites.

And then briefly suggests that this may be the case, and closes.

But as Professor Peter Sommer points out, and as the raft of 'denial of RIPA consent' headings on Phorm-aware websites is now making explicitly clear, such consent cannot be presumed.

So whither now, for Phorm?

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But will they Bite ??

As per info, its still advisory ! WIll the govt actually put a stop to this madness ? Will anyone get a High court stop/stay order ?

Is there any way to stop this sly information grab attempts? Can the company be closed down and public interest litigation started? Class action suit anyone?

I doubt it!

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Black Helicopters

Have I missed something?

Where is the home office advice that this is OK?

Who wrote that?

Can they be placed in the stocks and pelted with rotten veg?

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Happy

Common sense

coming out of a government agency! Who'd have thought it. But I've still set up TOR, even though I'm not with one of the ISP's who've sold out. Maybe I'll just switch all my traffic to Three mobile broadband on PAYG, and get myself about as anonymous as you can get. Cash only top-ups though, of course.

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3x2

Quite unbelievable..

..that BT and others still think they can get away with it.

Once Phorm are in chapter 11 where they belong it seems like a good time for HMG to take a long look at competition in the ISP industry. One thing this whole sorry mess has highlighted (to me at least) is the lack of alternative suppliers once the big three are in bed together. Clearly the free market isn't operating in this area or I would have changed my ISP last week.

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Pirate

Goodbye BT...

Just got my MAC code to leave BT (decided to give Zen a go since it's the same price and their MD said there was no way they'd ever use anything like Phorm in an earlier Reg piece) and was amused to find out that the advisor hadn't had anyone else calling up with that reason yet.

She went off and read up on it and came back with the BT arguments they gave at the beginning (safer web browsing, all done inside BT and not sent to America, "permanent" opt-out available (*cough* cookies), etc). All of which have been proved to be spin and vague platitudes.

Not that I blame the poor customer service girl who sounded a bit overwhelmed by the technical detail...

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Alien

What is Wrong 42 Put Right.

Surely IT is Phorm who have to be Proved Illegal rather than them Defending Legality

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Doh !

...and the FIPR Advisory Council includes.....(drum roll) Simon Davies of Privacy International. He must be having a left hand/right hand communication breakdown at the moment.

Or does that help to signal what might be in the (unreleased) 80/20 Thinking review that Phorm have declined to publish.

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Unhappy

so they'll change the law

to make it fit their aspirations.

Its what government do.

FIPR have apparently even been kind enough to highlight the exact chapter of the current legislation which needs a minor tweak.

I almost want to suggest that we should have kept quiet and sued them into the abyss after the fact.

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Anonymous Coward

Other "rights groups" flunked the test

One cheer for the FIPR.

But where was Privacy International? In the press release, PI gave Phorm its seal of approval. And the Open Rights Group didn't seem to notice at all for a month then hedged its bets:

"Phorm could, as Simon Davies has claimed, represent an advance in online privacy."

Jesus H Christ.

So we have ZERO citizens groups who can be relied on? This is not good.

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Anonymous Coward

What about wi-fi hotspots?

Does this mean that all those hot-spots around the UK which are using the other ad targeting technology to profile their users' surfing habits have been operating outside the law?

Suddenly I am very happy not to be an hotel, coffee shop, cafe, borough council, train station .... nor any of the other hotspot outlets in London - how many over the whole of the UK? Is there a difference between the encrypted and unencrypted hotspot suppliers?

I don't know enough about the hotspot market.

http://www.jiwire.com/partners/index.htm makes interesting reading - which of those service providers and alliance & technology partners are responsible for the harvesting of data so that the service can be funded from the targeted advertising revenue generated by the users.

A quick look:

FrontPorch partner with free-hotspot.com - locations throughout UK - and Jiwire

Ultramercial is tied in with Jiwire and HSBC Premier, and "Ultramercial is proud to have been selected by Virgin Mobile USA as their partner for SUGAR MAMA. Your brand will benefit from the years of experience we bring to this full-screen interactive advertising opportunity with Virgin Mobile’s 14-24 year old users." http://www.ultramercial.com/homebase.html

Two words spring to mind: cat & pigeons

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Anonymous Coward

Whinging

This is unbelievable- do you people really have nothing better to worry about? Don't you worry that Sky is analysing your viewing habits when your box dials BskyB every night? Or your bank knows where you are spending money then sending you junk mail offering you loans/insurance? For Fucks sake grow up, if you don't like the idea, opt out. Simple. (I'd like to see one of you IT sophisticates actually hack into Phorm and crack the anonymising data_- oh sorry, little too difficult? maybe it really is secure. But don't pretend to be anything other than a Luddite.

PS anyone care to point me to Tim Berners _ lee interview where apart from trashing Google ( good one Tim) he actually mentions Phorm? Or as in The BBC r4 interview this morning the dolt uses Berners_lee's comments to draw his own (incorrect) conclusion,...

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Unhappy

BT stance on Phorm

Got my first "Phorm" call today on the BT helldesk.

There hasn't been any word from above on it yet (there has on every, single, little thing else, like wi-fi's safe, don't mention "watchdog" etc.), so asked for our stance.

The product specailist just shrugged as did the manager, and his manager, who serious aksed why someone was asking about "Porn".

It's the blind leading the inept- if we get a stirring from Upstairs on this, I'll be surprised.

Everything we've heard about this is off El Reg.

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Black Helicopters

Spin?

I wouldn't trust this announcement as far as I could ping it, as has been said this could be a classic case of "the easiest argument to win",

ie: send the consensus in an apparently negative direction only to absolve through setting the deck prior to dealing out your hand.

DO. NOT. WANT.

PHORM GET OFF MY CLOUD!

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@The Other Steve

I more like a phial of phail.

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Anonymous Coward

And while we have the wind in our sails ...

... is it about time to revisit PlusNet's use of Ellacoya?

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Black Helicopters

Be Afraid.

BT provide most of the UK's broadband, usually re-badged and sold on through a third party. Prety much anything that isn't LLU is going via BTs DSLAMs. LLU providers are likely to use BT backhaul links anyway.

How much of YOUR data has already been sold to experimental adware companies?

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Flame

well...

I hope BT get their sorry asses sued to buggery over this! and then once they are done that, they can pay for a replacement 9081!!!!!!

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Flame

Re: Whinging

PR flunky? Shareholder? Employee? Kurt?! There must be some reason for the outburst as I can't see an uninterested party coming out with a statement like the above.

With Sky they make no secret of what the box does. And you can always take the free card option or just *cough* unplug the phone cable from the box.

My bank(s) and credit card providers(s) know what I want them to know. And there's always the option of cash.

Cracking Phorm wouldn't be trivial, but it isn't exactly impossible either, especially from the inside. Personally I trust neither Phorm or the owners of the host datacentres to not give into temptation and start playing with the data. Even if they 'anonymise' the data there are still things that can be done with it. Plus you have to trust the anonymising process which is hard to do.

If you think people who object to an illegal infringement of their privacy are Luddites then I suggest you might lack some understanding of the term. I somehow doubt that those objecting the most are likely to have much of a Luddite tendency given most are in technical professions.

.

Anyway, I hope Phorm disappear in a blaze of bad publicity - let's face it, the coverage isn't getting any lighter or more favourable!

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@Whinging

"This is unbelievable- do you people really have nothing better to worry about?"

Sure, lots.

"Don't you worry that Sky is analysing your viewing habits when your box dials BskyB every night? Or your bank knows where you are spending money then sending you junk mail offering you loans/insurance?"

I don't know about Sky (do I care? no) but if the bank did that it would be in _very_ hot water indeed.

Lost a load of cash on the stock market and coming here to cry, are you?

"Or as in The BBC r4 interview this morning the dolt uses Berners_lee's comments to draw his own (incorrect) conclusion,..."

What? Incorrect conclusion? TBL seems pretty clear in said interview:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7300103.stm at 12:20

Also it's "Whining". More work for free.

Now move along and get off my Internet.

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HTTP is dead, Long Live HTTPS!!

Well, it had to happen. The only BEST solution is for every website world wide to start using https instead of http.

We can all live with self-signed certificates for sites that can't afford to go out and buy expensive ones.. Or they could always get free ones from CACERT.ORG.

Then Phorm et al can stick their phingers up their phannys and "whistle Dixie".

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@AC:whinging

"PS anyone care to point me to Tim Berners _ lee interview where apart from trashing Google ( good one Tim) he actually mentions Phorm?"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7300434.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7299875.stm

No mention by Tim of Phorm explicitly. However, Implicitly there most certainly is. As you appear not to object to Phorm's behaviour, implicit consent being a mainstay of their argument concerning rights to your data. You must also accept that Tims implicit statements concern Phorm.

As for whinging, was your comment a whinge, a rant or both?

whinge:

To complain or protest, especially in an annoying or persistent manner.

rant:

To speak or write in a angry or violent manner.

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3x2

@But where was Privacy International?

A quick mail to PI will get you a pretty clear statement about all of this. The fact that "journalists" (I'm looking at you - BBC) initially didn't bother to ask is hardly their (PI's) fault.

@Whinging Anonymous Coward - not anonymous for long eh? I think you miss the point that everyone else you mention is ... well ... optional

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Phorm is one of many

We have to hope that it will be possible to muster more effective support for the FIPR now than there was for their open letter in 2000, http://www.fipr.org/rip/

While HMG and departments are allowed widespread, unsupervised, unaudited access to communications traffic data there is little hope that unsavoury commercial use can be held at bay for long.

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Account cancelled

After several weeks complaining I finally got a phone call from higher Bt customer services on Friday and managed to have my account terminated without penalty even with 12 months left. They guy was quite understanding and even called me back again within 15 minutes with a migration code. Job done on my part and in a couple of days from now I'll be with a 'no way to Phorm' isp who I'm more than delighted with.

My advice to you all is have a good moan at them and cancel your accounts as I did, you can never again trust an isp that deals with low life scum as they have. There are more reputable services out there awaiting on you and the move is much easier than you may think.

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Happy

A meeting room at BT

BT marketing guru arguing with BT PR guru:

Marketing: "But it is a great idea"

PR: "But look at the bad vibes you have downloaded onto the brand"

[Sound of whale song.....]

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No longer let it be said...

Re: http://www.fipr.org/080317icoletter.html

That Legal Beagles are incapable of expressing themselves clearly. Go read it. THAT is how you write a legal paper.

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Parallel TraQS ..... in Quantum Systems ...... Alan Turing's Master Prize ....

.....Virtual IntelAIgents Sharing Creative Plans

"Two words spring to mind: cat & pigeons" ... As do two others, AC, honey trap. A Mortal Immortal Confection :-) ........ and Beautiful Confusion.

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Anonymous Coward

I have never been so proud....

...of both my industry and of this website. Rest assured, none of the fears and questions now being raised about Phorm, and the other ad brokers that use similar technology would have been raised without the turmoil created by the El Reg (and possibly Slashdot) readership, and by the excellent investigation and reporting by the Register. I personally have written/phoned/emailed Richard Branson, Neil Berkett CEO Virgin Media, my MP, the ICO, Privacy International, Private Eye, Channel 4 News and Ofcom about this whole sorry, sorry business and am sure that hundreds of others have done the same.

Well done, people. Brings a tear to my eye....sniff.

Anthony

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@ Avi

FIPR isn't a government body in itself, however it is made up of intelligent, well-informed and articulate individuals who advise government (and occasionally government listens).

Just take a look at their list of trustees (http://www.fipr.org/trustees.html) and I'm sure regular readers of El Reg will recognise some of the names. I have had the privilege of knowing some of those mentioned.

In situations such as this where groups are campaigning on your behalf, please remember to consider making a donation to allow them to keep doing what they do best (http://www.fipr.org/friends.html).

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Happy

Thank Phuck for that

I hope the advisors manage to be persuasive enough to get this canned, I am with TBL, if they want my data and browsing habits then lets negotiate. At least tell me what you are going to do with my information and let me decide if I want to let you do it. Dont just "Assume" people want this "compelling Service"

@ Man from Mars, getting better, almost made some sense :-)

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@ Rob

"It's "Sue, Grabbit & Run", as any fule kno."

Actually it's Sue, Grabbit & Rune as any long term private eye reader knows ;)

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Changing ISP

I'd like to see some response from other ISPs out there that are definitely NOT going to use Phorm, or any similar system; I think this would be a good opportunity for ISPs to declare themselves "Phorm Phree" and gain support from people looking for a trustworthy ISP.

Does anyone have any information that would be useful in this respect?

I've asked my ISP (Eclipse) for their comment on this...

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Anonymous Coward

New section added to my website's Legal Notices

After taking a little bit of advice, I've added the following to my website's legal notices page. Takes any doubt out of me giving any implied permission to profile.

"Profiling.

With the exception of recognised search engines as part of their standard service in directing Users to their first page on this Website, We give no permission, implied or explicit, to any service seeking to intercept or profile any internet traffic between this Website and any Users. Any service seeking to intercept such traffic without prior written authorisation from Us shall be deemed to be making an unlawful interception."

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Paris Hilton

@Whinging AC

Is that you you Kent? Whats the matter, your investors suddenly realise that they are backing a complete crook?

None of the methods of tracking you mention are acceptable. But just because we have those doesn't mean we should accept another one?

There is a world of difference between the passive medium that is Sky TV, and the proavtive medium that is the internet. Sky can only find out which of their rubbish channels a viewer elected to watch. Somebodys browsing habits could give a very clear insight into their very private thoughts and habits.

Yes I know Google do it, but I choose to use google and block their cookies.

No I don't have anything to hide but that doesn't mean there are some things that I wouldn't mind keeping private. I still wear clothes even when I'm not carrying a Gun, Bomb {insert your personal fear of choice here}.

Paris, because even she can see the difference between Sky TV and my broadband connection. (well maybe not, but I like to think that she could)

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RE: Whinging

As there has been so little from CDR lately, is this a new PR company trying to quieten the Luddites?

As for Sir Tim, the way I heard his interview, he was talking about the dangers of ISPs profiling data. Period.

It does not matter what the profiling business calls itself - each day I am finding more 'suppliers', the ISPs should not be doing this.

I loved Sir Tim's discussions about the origins of email and how quickly the networking value of email has been undermined by the spammers. If you were better educated, you may just have been able to hear what he was saying, but then a good PR person would not be able to do his job well if he ever stopped to listen to the counter arguments.

Right now, there is a much more import matter at hand. I will put that into another post.

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stu
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Boffin

tesco's clubcard

I can't help thinking it is no different from a tesco clubcard though...

I don't have one, because I don't want to give tescos valuable info on what I buy, when, how often, where, etc, etc.

But the vast majority of people do seem to have tesco club cards.. have they all given 'informed consent' ?

Have they buggery. They got a card almost by default, are happy to use it cause they save money, and seem oblivious to the actual reason for it's existance*

*and if you point it out to them they don't seem to care either, but that's the great unwashed public for u...

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Coat

Have they got phorm?

It's a fitting name for a shady past company. They've certainly got Phorm, guv!

Mines the old, bright orange cagoule (very late 70s!)

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Stop

@stu

Get a god damn clue will you. For fucks sake I am sick of the utter ignorance and lack of intelligence from some of these comment posters. This is not like Tesco fucking Clubcard, it is not like Sky, it is not like anything. You have the choice to use your Tesco clubcard or not, if you are stupid enough not to read the bloody T&C that is your problem. Also Tesco collecting information on your purchasing habits by you consenting via the use of their card is a mile and a half from BT breaching criminal fucking law (RIPA).

So if you don't have anything intelligent to say, go back to your apathetic little bubbles, because you are giving those of us with a brain and degree of intellect a bloody headache.

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Paris Hilton

@Stu

There is a huge difference between Phorm and Tesco Clubcard. If I choose to have a tesco clubcard and to allow them to compile data on my shopping habits then I get a return for allowing them to do that: discounts on certain items and vouchers etc

With the Phorm system, however, there is no quid pro quo. They get to intercept my data and profile my browsing habits and in return give me anti phishing technology that is already present in most if not all browsers already.

Paris? Well, she definately gives quid pro quo!

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