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back to article Phorm failed to mention 'illegal' trials at Home Office meeting in 2007

The Home Office held a private meeting with Phorm in August last year, but BT's interception and profiling partner did not disclose that it had completed an allegedly illegal trial of its technology on tens of thousands of unwitting broadband subscribers just weeks earlier. Senior civil servant Andrew Knight revealed the meeting …

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Gotta love our goverment

Everything seems to be "sorry, we can't provide/do not have that information" if it might be slightly embarrasing/frowned upon, yet when it shows them in a possitive light they can't pump detailed information out quick enough. Am i the only that see's this?

This goverment is a joke, by meeting with these phorm bozo's it proves that. They were probably making a deal that all data intercepted was passed onto the gov, in return for taxpayers cash.

As for their press office, the goverment is supposedly run "by the people, for the people", therefore as a citizen, you should be able to contact any member of a goverment department directly and ask questions, after all they "work for us".

/inchoherent rant

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Anonymous Coward

I would suggest that....

all BT users possibly effected by the illegal monitoring make a Data Subject Access request to BT and ask them to advise to whom they have made disclosures of data.

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I can only...

...hold my head in my hands and weep copiously over this whole underhanded, disgusting, slimey, shitty, unjust debarcle.

Still, lets give K*nt the benefit of the doubt, eh? Secret trials on tens of thousands of BT users is an easy thing to forget about. Happens to me all the time.

Wankers.

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Heart

Re: Bootnote

Democracy in action...

Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy!!

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Alert

Cancelling with BT

Any way to cancel with BT and not get stitched up with their termination fee? After everything they have done (including trying to charge me £120 to have a BT line installed into my house, when we already had one, then the £40 of phonecalls to reconnect after they failed to process a payment on time) I don't really want to use them again, nor pay them anything more...

Anyone had success in cancelling within their contract due to the Phorm trials?

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Stop

Smell?

I smell something....smells like a cover-up to me.

/me dons tinfoil hat

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Coat

We need a new icon

It should say "It is a good day to bury bad news" to mark comments on HMG PR behaviour (and other keen followers of good PR practices).

Nothing personal, it is just the way IT IS. The government that is.

Me coat.

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Flame

re:HO Reponse to enquiry

"We asked if it was Home office policy to threaten journalists with excommunication if they try talking to senior civil servants. "No," she said. "It's just the way it is."

to paraphrase..

"yeah but no but yeah but like, it wasn't me that dunnit why are you bovvering me?"

or even

"No. But yes."

Useless sacks of elephant sputem the lot of them. First up against the wall if I have my way.

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Todays government! Todays BT!

At the end of the day Gordon Brown isn't prime minister by election he has failed to keep his promise to an early election. As the months move on he jumps from one unspeakable evil to another now he just comes over as paranoid. The whole sleepwalking into surveillance society is more like brown bull charge without looking...

Gordon resign you are a shambles for PM, ICO staff resign you failed the people you are supposed to protect.

BT AGM should have an added resolution of no confidence in the Management for completing secret trials with a spyware company.

I think there should be a big no confidence in them all.

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Paris Hilton

In the interests of openness...

Who was the press officer? We want names damnit!

Paris, because she believes in true transparency.

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Sam

Name her

No really Chris, name her..we pay her wages, she is accountable to us.

If you won't, then email me her name, I have some awkward questions for her (as she is accountable to me and the rest of joe public),and I have an increasing number of government contacts who are starting to realise how bad this is.

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Anonymous Coward

I've just had a meeting with the home office.

I spoke to Samantha on reception and enquired about thier opening times.

and before you ask the meeting was requested by ourselves of our own back!

are we not great?

I second that motion. Wankers.

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Coat

Home Office Press Office

"We asked if it was Home office policy to threaten journalists with excommunication if they try talking to senior civil servants. "No," she said. "It's just the way it is.""

So, she's saying it's not policy, but it is.

Huh?

If one is a civilian, surely a civil servant should serve one?

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Stop

And they wonder why...

we're paranoid?

It all smacks of the mother and father of cover ups. It may be the case that Phorm 'forgot' to mention the trials at the meeting in order to provide a line of "plausable deniability" at the Home Office. Possibly.

Or possibly not.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Gotta love our goverment

Ah, but which people do they mean?

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Press Officer

"We asked if it was Home office policy to threaten journalists with excommunication if they try talking to senior civil servants. "No," she said. "It's just the way it is.""

So, presumably you'll now be contacting her office to ask for a statement about why civil service press officers feel that they have the right to ignore Home Office policy and implement their own policies on threatening journalists.

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Anonymous Coward

Hardly surprising

Ooops, rather forgot to mention we've worked with BT and broken the law. Sorry, that was rather absent minded of us...

Was it b*ll*cks!

Did the specimen claiming to be a "press officer" from the Home Office give his or her name? In the interests of open government we should be alerted to the identity of this specimen who clearly lacks any kind of decent level of manners and courtesy.

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Joe

Get it on Watchdog!

I know it's trash TV, but it's the only way the proletariat will find out about it...

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Paris Hilton

Abracadabra

It's quite hilarious(if it wasn't true), they spy, lie and deceive all the way until BT go to the general public...

Ta Da, look at this amazing fresh new fantastic service we are offerring with our cleaner than clean, wonderful partner Phorm.

I think someone at BT has been watching too much Harry Potter.

Paris, because BT know they can dazzle her with their magic.

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Coat

So why *did* the Home Office speak to Phorm?

I mean, is it common for a company that does nothing to nobody, and certainly not anything that is illegal or could be interpreted to be so, in fact, doesn't do much at all, to speak to the Home Office? I mean, I lived in the UK for 12 years and was never once invited to speak to the Home Office, and I too have done nothing to nob.. you get the idea.

Mine's the one with the empty diary in the pocket...

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Unhappy

Almost there ...

"The Home Office refused to disclose further details of who was present at the August 2007 meeting with Phorm, how it was arranged, or what was discussed, saying that the information remained the subject of an ongoing FOI inquiry."

Keep pushing and they will finally admit that they can't discuss it on grounds of "National Security".

Perhaps this was the meeting where phorm demonstrated how easy it would be to have a 'security' interest channel. Ongoing, mass screening of British broadband use and it won't cost you a penny.

What else? I used to think it was just corruption.

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Dam

TITLE !!

"phails", not "fails" !

Fix it already ;)

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@Watchdog Joe

That's not a bad idea. It's been on the BBC News so it's not entirely new (hence not entirely scary), and they've got a trusted source to refer to (rather than just el reg who most of the UK haven't heard of and hence is scary) and will be shown to vast swarthes of the sorts of people who will phone up and complain about just this sort of thing.

They've even got the press officer's less than democratic response.

Actually why not spread this out so that it's just a whole Watchdog episode on The Government and its godawful policies?

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Joke

In related news

Pope revealed to be member of Church of Rome, Luxembourg calculated to not be amongst the larger European countries and Bears defecate in a woodland setting.

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Paris Hilton

Share Tip

Didn't I see Phorm being a speculative share tip in the Mail on Sunday this week? Do they something we don't?

Paris - she can share my tips any time (ooh er)

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Anonymous Coward

Wait a minute

What the fuck is going on here?

Being frugal with the truth when applying for permanent residency in the UK = Deportation

Deliberately withholding relevant information from the Home Office = Carry on - you might get away with it

And if, even in the light of this new revelation, nothing is done to punish BT/Phorm for breaking the law by carrying out their 2006/7 interception trials - they fucking have!

All the clowns involved should immediately be held for 42 days pending further enquiries

Apart from Emma Sanderson – trial by ordeal – with a red hot poker!

K*nt Spunkbubble as the ringleader – Deportation is far too good for him

Hung Drawn and Quartered live on You Tube!

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Unhappy

Almost there ...

As a post-script

Of course, in nulabour speak they can assure the public that the government does not routinely monitor all internet use.

They just leave it to their partners. It's the first PPP involving GCHQ.

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another day another nail

What is the point.

The police won't procsecute, Jacquie smith won't prosecute, ICO won't because we are all too thick.

I simply wait for the freedom of information to tighten a little further so we won't even get this information.

Already backhanders are being moved, people being talked to...

I like the boot note. Shows what a nest of vipers they are, you can only ask questions if you go through the censoring department.

Nice.

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Alien

Conspiracy?

Is the Home Office secretly behind Phorm in this?

Perhaps Bad Boy Brown has suggested using Phorm to distribute confidential data to the masses to replace the need to leave dossiers on trains or confidential data on password protected (stolen or liberated) laptops?

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RE:So why *did* the Home Office speak to Phorm?

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Could it be anything to do with the fact that the Phorm system is just as capable of categorising interest in bomb-making, jihad, Al-Queda, etc as it is in categorising interest in televisions, cars, holidays, etc?

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Stop

Zeitgeist

Call me a paraniod conspiracy theorist but it is becoming much clearer as things progress...

What with our fundamental rights being tossed away flippantly, faceless companies treating our personal data like tissue paper and a mindless government with little or no connection to modern day life. It appears that we as a people are heading into a dark era ahead.

Its already fact that our day to day lives in the UK are monitored through thousands of CCTV cameras, your personal details are shared between vast databases (and lost) and you can be "tagged" as "different" and monitored without your knowledge.

Its this kind of intrusion into our lives which, if gone unchallenged, will end up with each of us living in ignorant bliss while all our rights as people are whittered away and barted to the highest bidder.

I think Phorm should give up with what little fake PR status they have left and go crawl under the rock they came from. As for BT they should be for the high jump aswell, but what with Ofcom being as limp wristed as it is, I cant see it happening to be honest.

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My jaw is on the floor

Are we all part of some spectacular "f5ck you" competition to see which entity can demonstrate the most contempt for the human beings they are forced to interact with?

We know what Phorm think of us: mere walking bags of Kent's money.

I thought BT might have seen me as a customer. Oh well, clearly wrong there.

I had _hoped_ the Civil Service was there to, you know, serve civilians.*

* Stupid me. Someone pointed out that the clue is in the name. Government departments are usually named according to the opposite of what they do: "Department of Health" = for sick people, "Department for Employment" = for people who don't work, etc. I think I see a pattern here.

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Integrity?

We've heard of it.

Now, where did I hear that?

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Anonymous Coward

No?

You should be true Europeans and keep asking until they say yes!

(One disgruntled Irishman...)

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Anonymous Coward

time for

a new series of yes minister - phorm phucker the new minister for technology

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Home Office speak

"The Home Office refused to disclose further details of who was present at the August 2007 meeting with Phorm, how it was arranged, or what was discussed, saying that the information remained the subject of an ongoing FOI inquiry."

At the end of the FOI inquiry the information will not be released because it will be 'commercially confidential', when the appeal is granted, the discussions will be censored on the grounds of national security.

And I'm with the others above. You should name the spokesdroid.

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Anonymous Coward

Transparency

Here's a nice juicy list of names and numbers...

http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/

Any chance we can get a hint on who our loveable civil 'servant' may well be?

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Gates Halo

Name and shame

I agree that "servant" (since when do servants get to speak to their masters in such a manner? Such impertinence! Someone needs to see the Head Housekeeper for some discipline!) needs to be named and shamed.

Perhaps we could all request an interview?

Re: Phorm/BT not getting prosecuted, in a political climate where no-one is at fault for a desktop PC full of misplaced Restricted information getting stolen, is it suprising that no-one's investigating something so blatantly illegal?

Gates: It's how this makes him look in comparison...

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Pirate

Home Office = Bunch of arrogant B@5t4ds (my personal oppinion!)

It just shows what sort of attitude these £$&$%^£$% have!

It is just mind blowing to find that they want to take the right away to talk to senior civil servants!

are they something better than us? after all, I amongst many others are paying their wages!

how about if we stop paying our taxes? I am being rude to the person(s) paying my wages, I will get fired!!!

It would be a pleasure to get the name of this (alleged) lady and ask her, if she would do the same if she were in a private firm!

And Lady, if you read this: People like you are the ones who make people loose trust and faith in the government (of the little that is still left!)

Your arrogance reminds me of Grace Mugabe (Robert G. Mugabes Wife), whom I have met several years back and found her to be the most arrogant person I have ever come across (and that is very many!!!) but from what I understand her, you seem to come pretty close!!!

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Alert

Phorm Strategy Meeting...

Been to meetings like this one as I'm sure many of you have:

Phorm exec with a wee bit of integrity: "How can we test this stuff? We'll need gobs of permissions & disclosures. It will take time & cause problems."

Typical Phorm exec: "Ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Go with the forgiveness angle so we can move forward now and clean up the mess later or not at all."

And so it goes. No ethics. No conscience. All business and bean counting.

Cheers,

Mike

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reg reader campaign time?

That civil servant "works for us" right?

Lets have his mailing address, direct line and email - I'm sure there are a few reg reader, who as uk tax payers would like to have a word with this chap....

And if he turns it down... well I'll just have to route such communications via my local MP - could get very messy for him if every MP in the country is being hassled by voters because he won't talk to the rest of us directly...

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BT, The Home office, meet up with a company that writes Malware

OK let me get my head around this.

Phorm aka 121Media who wrote rootkits to deliver some of their spyware products that were hidden in application downloads, are in cahoots with the Government and they intercept all our HTTP data to serve illegal adverts when we browse on the internet. I find this difficult to believe but on checking it is now my opinion that this is true!

I spent hours fixing PC's of freinds geting rid of their crap. (PeopleOnPage

Alias:ContextPlus). And of course the nasty Apropos rootkit written by their development team (I think by programmers in Russia).

Bl**dy hell where is our National security??

f***k me!!! This is unbelievable but it's actually true!!

What does that say about our Government and BT? They should have run a mile!

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BT may have a defence - strong mitigation at least

Though I would not wish to gainsay Nicholas Bohm, whose analysis appears to be excellent, BT may be in the clear.

It has already been said that the trials needed to be kept secret in order properly to test that use of the surveillance technology was imperceptible to users. Also the Home Office had apparently made presentations to communications companies encouraging them to retain data under the Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act.

BT could presumably maintain that they were 'only doing their bit', as had been suggested to them by a Home Office presentation, and were, for example, developing a self-financing national security system. Whether or not their actions were actually illegal, and there not having been any test case this was to an extent unknown, in order to procede they would have needed only to be sufficiently sure that a case would be unlikely ever to come to court.

Can El Reg please point us in the direction of presentations that the Home Office has made to the comms industry in this area?

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Alien

why not mention trials?

well, and this is just speculation...

suppose that the original trials were using the IP logging system.

suppose that it was actually a data harvesting exercise

suppose that someone senior within BT "gave access to the network for a trail" but only in return for a position within the company running the "trial"

suppose that a marketing company is only worth the value of its database

suppose when they say "we can see the entire internet" they are actually talking to the harvesting and profiling carried out to produce a database

suppose that database was called OIX

now that would be wrong wouldn't it, nobody would seriously do that would they?

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Coat

@AC & Sam

I am Sparticus!

Mine's the loin cloth in the pocket!

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@AC

>>"Perhaps this was the meeting where phorm demonstrated how easy it would be to have a 'security' interest channel. Ongoing, mass screening of British broadband use and it won't cost you a penny."

You reckon that there aren't *already* mechanisms for TPTB to intercept internet traffic, whether or not the target happens to use BT as their ISP?

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Ian
Unhappy

I find the Press Office's attitude odd.

I find the Home Office's Press Office's attitude odd. Andrew Knight is clearly trusted to talk to journalists (as was his predecessor Simon Watkin). Evidence for this is that he was a speaker at the FIPR 'birthday party' meeting a few weeks back, and happily answered questions from journalists such as Duncan Campbell and Wendy Grossmann, who both identified themselves as such. Indeed, anyone with experience of FIPR public meetings could predict that Duncan would have been there.

So who's hiding what here? Is Andrew Knight trying to avoid the questions by punting it to the Press Office or is the Press Office just being obnoxious as a twisted kind of method of creating job security?

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Anonymous Coward

@By David Pollard

B**locks!

Are you on Phorms Parole, or do you have senior relatives in BT?

Seriously, you are living a Walter Mitty existence if that's your defence!

So I book a ticket with an airline to go on an aeroplane with a shoe bomb.

Nobody catches me and I detonate it. Hundreds of innocent lives are lost and I am the only survivor.

I eventually get caught and my defence?

Your Honour. I was just testing the system for you. I doing a covert operation to test the security. You do want your security tested do you not??

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Flame

UK's Echelon

This has gone on so long with so little action that I think it's a bit bigger than an advertising model. I'm sure it does tat too but i am beginning to wonder if the civil service/government is trying to construct a UK version of Echelon. doses Google have meetings with the home office? Does Yahoo? What the hell did they talk about and what was decided?

Cuz it's fire sale time.

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Go

Now do you see what David Davis is on about?

It's blindingly obvious why the Home Office has been squirming away from demands to prosecute the Phorm spyware outfit. They had met Phorm and decided that spying on all emails, all web browsing, all electronic communication, everything, would be the best way to consolidate the ruling party's grip on power.

Do you see why Gordon doesn't denounce Mugabe?

It only remains to find a way to leave this country. If you can't beat them, and you are too intelligent to be asked to join them, get out while you can.

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