back to article BT's secret Phorm trials: UK.gov responds

The European Commission is analysing the government's explanation of why UK authorites have taken no action over BT and Phorm's allegedly illegal broadband wiretapping and ad-targeting experiments in 2006 and 2007. A spokeswoman for Vivian Reding's information society and media commission confirmed that a response to its call …

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The government's intentions are now a lot clearer

Until now, I'd been prepared to entertain that the Home Office advice to Phorm was basically misconceived and inadvisedly given - and that subsequent communications from the Home Office were simply trying to save face in the light of this poor advice.

But now the government has replied to the EU along similar lines, so now I know something is up. It's now quite clear that the government have an interest in Phorm's plans going ahead. It's not too difficult to imagine why, either.

Let's hope the EU don't share the same interest or the internet is well and truly stuffed as far as UK users are concerned.

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Greedy grabbing scum

thats what the telecom companies have become with BT topping the list. Be warned any other company thinking of using this shit . You have managed to destroy all trust between you and your customers, great move there. You thought you had got away with spying and the government let you get away with it until forced to do something by the EC.

Too little, too late and halfhearted Gordon. Were you hoping to get into bed with Phorm and BT and have them do more spying for you, the database happy , surveillance happy set of tossers that you are? I think you were and we wont forget who tried to stuff us. You deserve to loose all your customers youve already lost their respect and the same goes for this underhand incompetent bungling useless two faced government and self serving MP's. You know who you are.

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Anonymous Coward

Vivian’s views on the tango

This is typical British fudge – a long way short of the decisiveness of the US. Crucially, BERR’s statement makes no mention of the other party whose communication is being intercepted. For the moment, we can only imagine what, if anything, the full text of the letter has to say on this. The commercial interception of UK citizens’ Internet traffic will inevitably mean the commercial interception of traffic destined for and originating from the rest of the EU. The European Commission may well decide that this is incompatible with EU directives and principles. Vodafone didn’t get an exemption from the mobile phone roaming cap, despite the UK government lobbying hard against the whole idea.

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Huh?

So uk.gov claim to be 'transparent', but won't release their findings. That must be another word like 'debate', which they call for regularly as a prelude to telling us what they're going to do. Still there's an election coming soon (not soon enough), then we can all 'move on' to the next ten years of depressing idiocy.

In the meantime, I'll have to continue my 'zero tolerance' approach to ISPs who refuse to rule out phorm.

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Boffin

I am still wondering

how the government can claim to have known nothing about the BT-Phorm trials when before this Phorm had spoken to the government. How many small and rather inconsiderate companies have direct access to a national government? If it wasn't to discuss these trials, what WERE they doing there? Having a nice cup of tea and discussing the latest results at Ascot?

I think we should be told

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Black Helicopters

Online Petition

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ispphorm/ - couldn't see it mentioned already - the online petition on the number 10 site. It'll make no difference I'm sure, but it's the principle of the thing...

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Black Helicopters

@Steve

> They should both be fined and Phorm should be banned from operating in the UK

Better yet, BT should likewise be banned ;-) which is clearly not practical so how about breaking BT into three separate companies: wholesale/networks, business retail and residential retail. I'm aware that this distinction is already in place, all that needs to happen is for the competition commissioner to instruct BT to sell off any two from three, and be prevented from owning more than a minority shareholding in them for a few years.

It isn't just Phorm that needs to be hung, drawn and quartered for riding roughshod over UK and European law, and customer privacy.

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Dan
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Black Helicopters

Infinte loop

"Future developments involving Phorm will be closely scrutinised and monitored by the enforcement authorities."

They haven't responded to question 1; which laws cover this and 2; exactly who enforces these laws, and 4; what the punishment for ISPs and Phorm is for breaking these laws. Why on earth should those be in the censored section? These shouldn't be state secrets. Or is it government policy that British citizens are treated like mushrooms these days and is it in their interest that the telecoms watchdogs continue to give people the runaround?

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Coat

Did People Really Expect...

A full and open response from a government hell bent on putting together an enforcement framework so oppressive that Reinhard Heydrich and Erich Honecker would be awestruck? The only thing that is transparent about that reply is that it is full of spin and bullshit.

Let's not forget that neither Phorm nor BT have published the so-called "legal advice" they claim to have received, despite challenges to do so. Odd, that. Considering QCs love to sign their names to their legal opinions and have them published as much as they can.

Let's not forget that the government has already said that it wants to keep data on every SMS text message, phone call, e-mail and all web traffic. Phorm is something this "government" wants desperately. This way it will be implemented by a company not related to the government so it can argue there's less chance of a balls up.

The bottom line is that Phorm's product is illegal. Citigate Dewe Rogerson had been quiet until recently. Perhaps they haven't seen K*nt failing to answer the criticisms and legal arguments made by Dr Richard Clayton and Alex Hanff at http://tobymeres.net. It's also a bit odd that over 5 months have passed since that footage was taken and there is still no "professional" footage of the event from 80/20 Thinking.

Another term of "New Labour" will ruin this country irrevocably. I'm already planning to emigrate if this lot get voted in again. My Latin teacher often said that "history repeats itself". I watched a couple of documentaries about Nazi Germany last night. Spot the similarities...

"Data about almost everyone was collected by the Gestapo. The Gestapo reached into every aspect of German life."

This "government"'s desire to have one all seeing, all knowing database. Only this information won't be on card files, it will be stored (and no doubt lost) electronically. More monitoring means this "government" will indeed be reaching into every aspect of our lives.

"Prisons were full to bursting. There was no room in them."

Another claim from this "government" - prisons are full. They are full because of all the new and often poorly thought out "laws" designed to criminalise people, hiding behind one or two mantras.

"Campaigns to spread fear were widespread"

If someone's taking photos, they're a terrorist. If someone's carrying a backpack, they're a terrorist. If someone has two mobile phones, they're a terrorist. If someone refuses to tell you where they are going, they're a terrorist.

New is to Labour as National is to Socialism.

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This post has been deleted by its author

IT Angle

@ Dennis

"Chris could you get a statement from David Cameron (Tories) and try and get this item on the political agenda. They are desperate for votes ask him for a comment and publish it with the promise of a link to his weblog. If he wants to get in touch with the young intelligent people here is his opportunity to do it."

As we look around and see the wreckage caused by NuLabour's unregulated financial markets and more general 'Greed is Good' and 'Big Brother' policies, it's no surprise that Dave Cameron, as the only viable alternative, is coasting downhill towards an election triumph. But as we know from our experience with another grinning snake oil salesman, appearances can be deceptive. You couldn't slide a fag paper between the policies of NewLab and the policies that the Tories intend to implement.

We can only hope that the government suffer the most humiliating defeat in political history and Cameron gets the message: NO MORE SHIT - or else.

Sorry, no real IT angle here, just genuine anger.

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Flame

kill them all

nuff said really, just execute the lot of 'em, the spineless, greedy, cock sucking, sons of bitches.

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How many times have they just copied this Blurb

As a BT Customer who "was" involved in the 2006 & 2007 trials, I am very dismayed at the absolute naivety of the BERR & their lack of knowledge of how this Phorm Equipment Works.

This is perfectly clear when they accept this following type of assurance from BT/Phorm without reference to any sort of Technology Experts in this field!

They are on record as stating that the User would be presented with an UNAVOIDABLE Web Page in order to get consent for Profiling the connection!

"This means in fact that the Profiler is already ON watching the connection & injecting data into the Surfers Browser.

Furthermore in order for the User to be able to turn this Adserving ON/OFF the profile would still have to be on the connection!"

Notice I did not mention the profiler itself would be turned off by the User, the opposite it would still be active & could be used to gather any statistics allowed (or un-allowed look at this companies history, given certain other events over the past 2-3 years , I personally wouldn't let them into the UK let alone run such a Service!)

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Pirate

In Case Anyone Has Forgotten

See Phorm completely fail to answer arguments against its legality in the video footage at http://tobymeres.net

UK gov wants Phorm so isn't going to find against it.

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Alert

An alternative thought...

Lots of people here, quite rightly are voicing their opinion of Phorm/BT/UKGov, however lets just accept the inevitable, and do something about it.

Amongst you must be some clever people with a good understanding of the technicalities of Phorm, so how about do a 'Defence Against The Dark Arts' and start discussing countermeasures.

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Black Helicopters

The Real Reason for Delayed Response

Now we know why UKGov delayed so long before answering EUGov's letter...

They were waiting for Phorm to set up a Guest Login for GCHQ on their database!

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Go

@gulfie

"I'm hoping Private Eye will pick up the baton as well"

They have. Latest issue, p.26

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Go

@aimee

"countermeasures"

Good idea. After all, if it's not illegal for them...

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Pirate

@aimee - accept the inevitable my ar5e

You'll find all manner of counter measures on Dephormation.org.uk. Does that mean I think its inevitable? No, thats the kind of compliant servile defeatist attitude that turns you into a slave for the rest of your life...

Phorm is not inevitable while I've got a pen and paper to write letters of complaint. Pick up a pen and write letters to your MP, MEP and the European Commissioners. Start fighting this evil with every fibre in your body. The pen is mightier than the sword. So reach into your coat pocket, grab a pen, and ram the nib in their eye sockets (metaphorically, not literally).

PHORM MUST BE STOPPED

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Stop

Head in Sand

from the article: "Future developments involving Phorm will be closely scrutinised and monitored by the enforcement authorities."

This admits the previous trials were dodgy - or else why else would future developments need monitoring. The whole response is typical spin - and not even very good spin at that - avoiding all the crucial issues.

The EU commisioner should see right through this B$, assuming the undisclosed text isn't an invite to the 'data party'.

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Happy

@dephormation.org.uk

While I appreciate your efforts, Phorm or its sucessor is too good a tool for BigBrother or Corporate UK to loose.

So it is inevitable despite all the sterling efforts to stop it by legal means, so lets get techy.

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More weasly ambiguity

From the statement:

# Users will be presented with an unavoidable statement about the product and asked to exercise a choice about whether to be involved.

# Users will be able to easily access information on how to change their mind at any point and are free to opt in or out of the scheme

Not exactly waving the flag for a guaranteed opt-in approach with no interception if you say F*** off, are they? I don't want to exercise a choice at all, in fact I don't want to think about it. I simply want nothing to do with it unless I actively seek it out.

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Pirate

@aimee

Getting techy is playing straight into the hands of Phorms PR strategy. Talk of web technology confuses Joe Public. Getting tech heads suckered into raging debates about cookies is Phorm PR strategy #1.

The truth for everyone is simple; for the first time in the UK the communication industry want to sell your private communications, and violate the confidentiality, security, and integrity of our communication services.

If you don't want that, the solution is to immediately and vociferously start complaining, and switch ISP away from BT/Virgin/TalkTalk without a moments hesitation.

Keep the tech debate until we see if it launches. Then we'll have an eternity to find cunning ways to fight Phorm, and an eternity to lament sitting like stupified little bunnies in the headlights.

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Just keep going until they have to Listen!!

@aimee

Whilst I understand your motives in protecting privacy (& I do have quite a few ideas on how to make this profiling basically useless), do we really want a "Tower of Babel" scenario where Users have to use all sorts of different "languages" to talk to each other.

The need for clear & precise dialogue between Cultures, Nations etc has never been stronger than now & we cannot let a few greedy Companies or Power Seeking Politicians from keeping this System Open & available to All!

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Come on the EU

That is all I can say.

And give us a hefty fine us for answering a month and a half late as well.

MP's and the gov't don't listen to the people anymore so someone needs to give them a spanking.

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That's all right, then

"statement about the product"

which will tell us exactly what it's for, naturally.

Pigs all lined up and ready for take-off...

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Happy

@dephormation.org.uk

Hi

re Joe Public I have to agree, however trying to convince them there is a privacy issue is also in my opinion just as difficult as trying to get it stopped.

JP does not see it as a problem, and that is the problem.

However, for the tech savvy, there will be ways found to circumnavigate all of these issues, however then according to BB/CUK we will have something to hide!!!

As for raging debates, not worth the time, move on and get the countermeasures set up.

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@Chris Williams

> The FOI request is in.

Any chance of sticking the email/letter somewhere so that the rest of us can submit the same request?

Ta.

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Anonymous Coward

Three Things

Firstly I'm sure UK.gov's reluctance to comment upon, let alone investigate, the trials is down to the fact that some Home Office mandarin did advise BT & Phorm that the trials were legal. In which case BT & Phorm would be off the hook and the HO would be in the dock.

Secondly if the HO did want to spy on us then there's no way they'd team up with somebody like Phorm. They could simply force their own hardware into various NSPs comms rooms to simply snort up all the traffic. So pull your conspiracy theorising necks back in.

Thirdly my concern is not for privacy, but for the web itself. Many websites, especially the small interesting ones, survive on advertising revenue alone. If something like Phorm starts replacing their ads with it's own and it's use becomes widespread then the revenue for the small guy will dry up and the web will become a bland corporotized wilderness where only the big guys can afford to operate.

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Happy

@three things

>Secondly if the HO did want to spy on us then there's no way they'd team up with somebody like >Phorm. They could simply force their own hardware into various NSPs comms rooms to simply >snort up all the traffic. So pull your conspiracy theorising necks back in.

They do that anyway, dont they?

Phorm could be used for traffic analysis, ie to see how much traffic and who is going to a particular site, so they can then concentrate their more valuable assets on particular access to a particular site.

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Go

Mileage in a new service?

How about a new web service that tells you all the IP addresses that you might want to block when they coming knocking on your Router...you know, Phorms profiling servers, ROI/BPI torrent clients that sort of thing? I'm sure that we could collate a fairly accurate list of these servers.

Anyone? Anyone?.....Dust!!!

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Paris Hilton

@Three Things

The only ads Phorm replaces are the ones that are marked as Phorm ads (for now). I am no fan of Phorm (read I hate their fucking guts) but if anyone is to have a chance of convincing the average politician that this is a bad idea then a clear consistent message needs to be put across.

1) For the public, get your dirty hands off my internet traffic

2) For WebMasters, get your dirty hands off my copyrighted material that you are using illegally drive customers who are directly interested in my site to my competitors sites. (Bastards)

Paris because of some lewd joke about both ends!

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Pirate

If you want countermeasures...

and IP ranges to block they are here: www.dephormation.org.uk.

But the priority is not countermeasures, its complaints and FoI requests, appointments with your MP at their surgery, letters to your MP, letters to BERR, letters to the Home Office, letters to ICO, letters to the EC, letters to your ISP. Don't let these evil people strip you of your communication privacy/security/data integrity rights, and scam your copyright web pages.

"All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing"

Edmund Burke

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Go

@El Reg. Please get FOI in for BERR letter

Proposed reforms to Freedom of Information are in the pipeline, so requesting it under current law is essential or it may be dodged: see http://www.cfoi.org.uk/feesproposals.html

I doubt I'm alone in my desire to see the whole letter, it's in the public interest to publish it! Please get an FOI request in before it's too late? And let's all get to read that letter!

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Flame

Rape is also legal if consent is obtained....

"The Home Office defended advice it gave BT and Phorm that their "Webwise" agreement to track millions of broadband subscribers will probably be legal if consent is obtained."

Rape too will "probably be legal if consent is obtained"? Isn't the whole point of the objection the fact that it represents a violation of our privacy, like being snooped on in the lavatory. How dare they say nobody was harmed? it was a clear violation. It's like saying that a particular organised gang rape of 31,000 women didn't harm any women because "even though consent wasn't obtained" as far as they know, none of the women got any diseases, after all the sex itself probably didn't do them any real harm, and of course, it would have probably been legal in any case had they consented so the gang was only "technically" in breach of the law....(as if there is any other way to be in breach of the law, other than technically that is!)...

Gang rape is fine, by the same logic as this response, as long as it's BT doing the raping. Let's forget about the rapes that went before, similar rapes will probably be OK in the future if consent is obtained on an opt-out basis, or by spelling it out in the terms and conditions ...all customers will be systematically raped .... (I'm surprised that's not in there already...)

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Anonymous Coward

Action Required Immediately!

http://www.openrightsgroup.org/2008/09/20/to-do-this-weekend-ask-your-meps-to-vote-for-telecom-package-amendments-133-and-138/

"...

Posted by Becky in Copyright, Data Protection, Intellectual Property, Net Neutrality, Privacy at September 20th, 2008

Next Wednesday, MEPs will vote on the Telecoms package.

Two amendments have been tabled which in particular will ensure the new telecoms regulations protect European citizens from unreasonable surveillance and censure.

If you have half an hour this weekend, why not not write to to your MEPs http://www.writetothem.com/ and ask them to support these amendments?

Amendment 133 is an anti-filtering amendment, and will add the following text to the Directive:

...

Amendment 138 ensures that sanctions cannot be imposed on end-users without judicial oversight. It will add the following text to the Directive:

....

"

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Stop

Tory promises in print?

Never noticed how Cameron or some other blue will make an announcement about a proposed Tory policy, then within a week NuLabour suddenly shout about some great new idea THEY have come up with, that looks suspiciously like the Tory idea but in words with fewer syllables?

Not spotted that everything was running fine with the UK economy as long as Brown continued with Tory economic policies, but as soon as he started running things the "New" Labour way (or, for those of us with memories longer than the average journo, the 'normal' Labour way)?

Forgotten the number of things the last Tory government wanted to bring in that were blocked by God Emperor Tory Blur (sorry, I meant Tory Blair... no Tony Bliar... ach, you know who!) and the Opposition, but suddenly became wonderful new NuLabour policies as soon as Bliar and his yes-men and yes-women were elected?

Go dig through the national news archives then - it's all there in black and white.

I can't remember the last time the Tories publicised a potential policy that NuLab didn't then claim as their own. Actually, that's not true. One of the blues said something about raising income tax and NuLab started crowing about how the Tories were already raising taxes (no, Mr NuLab mouthpiece - he said they *would look at* raising taxes; of course they will almost certainly need to - especially after NuLab have completely butt-fsck'ed the economy), but didnn't NuLab promise *NOT* to raise certain taxes?

Oh that's right, NuLab didn't raise the taxes (immediately) - they just created a whole bunch of new ones...

And one way to "fight back" against companies seeking to track "terrorists" through what they search for - the old "Carnivore Bait" word strings. For those too young to remember, Carnivore was a forerunner to the Echelon electronic spy systems and some geeks would put a load of cr&p at the bottom of emails containing 'trigger' words like nuclear, president, asasinate and so on, just to give the American spymasters something to read... as any sppok worth his job title should realise, terrorists do not use plain text descriptions of what they intend doing - they use code words (I mean, c'mon - even the USAAF did that - "Climb Mount Nikita" wasn't a description of the Enola Gay's holiday plans, FFS!)

STOP. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. All your bases are sold off by us.

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Stop

BT interests are at stake...?

BERR states (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/re_consultation_between_bt_phorm) :

"Some of the information provided to us by BT was done so on the basis that it was confidential at that time, and remains so. The primary reason for this is where commercial sensitivities and interests are at stake "

"This is particularly apparent by the pages attached to BT's letter to the ICO of 9 May that have been deleted in their entirety, and are marked 'deleted'. Where this is the case this information has been withheld in reliance on section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which applies to information that has been provided to the public authority in confidence, and the disclosure of that information to the public by the public authority holding it would constitute an actionable breach of confidence."

This doesn't make sense to me... anyone?

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Anonymous Coward

They never watched Yes Minister?

Don't these people know that we know that "...is committed to providing a high level of ..." means doesn't give a damn about but needs to say it is.

"is working with" is another bullshit-alarm phrase.

So... these people will always bullshit us, but do they have to insult our intelligence to this extent too?

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Anonymous Coward

I love how

it's taken them this long to even NOTICE, let alone go about getting something done.

That's only after god knows how many people writing letters, actually phoning the police, and NEWS REPORTS saying that Phorm and BT broke the law.

AFTER ALL THAT, NOW they are thinking about possibly taking action... meanwhile the person who overfilled their bin or dropped their apple core is being threatened to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, 3 seconds after they were saw doing it, because the government was spying on them through their mis-use of surveillance laws.

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Your data is important to us, please hold.

Commercial confidentiality is a legitimate concern for businesses in areas such as contractual bidding, new product launches and research and development, to name only a few. However, when two or more commercial enterprises conspire together to steal the property of a third party for financial gain then commercial confidentiality goes out the window and criminal charges should be in the offing.

Let's be more specific here; the conspirators are Phorm, BT et al and the NuLabour government. The aggrieved third party is, of course, the group of ISP customers who have had 'their' data illegally intercepted.

The only way these criminal conspirators can legitimise their business model is by offering to pay consenting customers an appropriate commercial rate for their data, based on the rate that Phorm pay BT.

The government's participation in this affair can't be explained away by their usual mantra of "what's good for business is good for Britain" (we all know how that worked out, don't we.) so why would they be interested in commercial DPI spying technology? Answers on a postcard to GCHQ, Cheltenham.

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vote for the blue ones?

I would but the chief blue one looks like a carbon coppy of the chief red one form 10 years ago he even shound the same I think I will be voading for the little pink ones I am taking every hour

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Labour?

Do people really expect the Tories to scrap all the unpopular policies as soon as they get voted in next time around?? *shudder*

I'm old enough to remember what popular culture used to say about Thatcher, and it's might similar to what folk are saying now......they'll investigate, they'll focus group and then decide it's "not in the interest of the tax payer" else they'll let the euphoria of Gordo's exit wipe voter memories clean and then forget all about it......

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I have.....

now asked for my MAC code. Phorm, the government and BT have now gone too far. I am taking my money someplace else.

I think it is really time to start voting for a different party as well. They have had enough time to mess things up and as far as i know Gordon Brown was not even elected so how the Phuck did he get to be in power in the first place? This government is a joke and any 12 year old with half-way decent computer skillz knows more about computer security and how to keep data safe then the idiots that are now in charge. Heck, one or two occasions of data loss i can deal with but this is beginning to be a weekly affair now. And those useless inquiries are just that. Nobody seems to learn a thing from their past mistakes and yet they order more inquiries into how things happen. These things happen because the government at the top is in LALA land.

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