back to article Phorm admits 'over zealous' editing of Wikipedia article

Phorm has admitted that it deleted key factual parts of the Wikipedia article about the huge controversy fired by its advertising profiling deals with BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse. The tracking and ad targeting firm said in an email: "We wanted to clarify a number of inaccuracies in the Wikipedia entry on Phorm." …


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  1. Bill Fresher


    All this "correcting" of articles has given me an idea for a website.


    You control articles written about you.

    Tag line: it's a bit like facebook except it pretends to be an encyclopedia.

  2. Anonymous from Mars
    Thumb Up


    It seems Phorm has not yet mastered the art of Wikiality.

    We're seeing companies act like kids pretty often. First Creative, now this.

  3. Tim

    They need to just accept

    They are, pretty much, screwed.

    They're in the public eye in a bad ligh with a bad product that no one wants apart from the ISPs, though even they are now all backing away nervously.

    If they'd been open and honest from the start they might have had some shred of credibility, but they don't. Editing their Wiki article like this was a stupid move in my opinion.


  4. Dam

    at BT's comment


    A BT representative meanwhile wrote in an email: "I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services."


    Yeah right, besides violating the site's policy they agree to abide by ?

    I guess they saw nothing wrong either in conducting the stealth data pimping trials.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not guilty behaviour at all!!

    Changing articles to make yourself look good and taking out all the bad press. There not acting like someone with nothing to hide at all! Phail!

  6. Mike Crawshaw


    I never, ever, EVER thought I would say this, but, I'm a big man and I can do it, without even wincing.


    Well Done Wikipedia - preventing Phorm's attempted manipulation of their entry to cloud the facts and silence their critics is credit to the ideals by which Wikipedia is supposed to work.


    I feel dirty, now...

  7. Anonymous Coward

    ??? Not Aware

    How can any PR company (who aren't a bunch of wankers) NOT be aware of the Wikipedia policies? Or is this just even more bullshit from Phorm.

    Do they really think we were all born yesterday. As each day goes by their arrogance and disregard for everyone else (peoples rights, the concept of free speech) just gets more and more unreal.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Institutional dishonesty

    Why does this report not surprise me? Every step of the way Phorm show themselves to be unworthy of trust. DO NOT WANT!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there anything...

    ...else that Kent Spunkbubble and his crew will not try, in order to convince the unwashed masses that Phorm is in any way good?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Reading skill

    "The spokesman said Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest."

    Well that just proves what I have always thought when looking at the forum posts they make

    Phorm's PR team can not read.

  11. Shabble

    Wiki doesn't work

    Whether it is companies using Wiki as advertising, idiots using it to incorrectly re-number TV episode lists or Megacorps using it as a way of dispersing propaganda - I've said it before and I've said it again. Wiki doesn't work!

    And to think, a few months ago the Wiki guys were trying to convince UK universities to allow Wiki as a reference source for dissertations!

  12. Ivor
    Paris Hilton

    Hardly surprising

    I guess it really just highlights just how technically savvy the Phorm clowns are, that they thought they would be able to get away with this unnoticed.

    Will anyone at BT et al now ponder if this glaring lack of technical acumen might perhaps be a sign that the company isn't capable of being trusted with their customers private data after all? Perhaps not.

    Paris 'cos she knows so much about private data being distributed.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    And still we're supposed to trust them?

    Proof yet again that Phorm will basically do and say anything in order to keep their (allegedly) illegal system from being exposed for what it is.

  14. Cris Page


    BT are starting to smell as bad as their parasitical buddies. First they lie to thier customers, now they seems to defend the blatant attempt to sanitise the facts about this invasion of our privacy - the fact that Phorms PR droids (or whoever) were unaware of wiki policy just shows the arrogance with which they operate, not only do they assume they have some god given right to our data, they assume they can distort data on websites to suit their own ends

    Of course BT wouldnt see a conflict of interest would they? They cant see past that cheque from Phrom for selling out their customers privacy (aka data that isnt theirs to sell).

    There is an interesting precedent here though.

    Clearly, they didnt read the WIKI AUP and T&C before they got the scissors out... right?

    So how can this now be opt in by default, on the assumption that people will have read and understood any T&C change published in some remote corner of an ISP web page?

    Surely now theres an unbreakable case that this must be placed infront of each and every affceted ISP customer by email and a POSITIVE OPT IN required before inclusion? Phrom have clearly demonstarted that people DONT routinely check T&C so to obtain informed consent to data interception they have to ptretty much wave the thing in everyones faces before they go ahead

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Must have phorgotten...

    It seems that there are many things the Phorm PR Team are unaware of...

    Perhaps like Kent they were 'confused'... or even conphused...

    I do hope that the PR Team are at least following all of the new security and legal issues that are being raised by various well qualified people - would'nt want them to get that wrong as well...

  16. g e


    "I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services"

    To 'correct' something it has to be incorrect to be put into a state of correctness.

    Someone should explain to that self-interested complete cock that 'factually correct' is actually .. err..


    Maybe he'll claim stupidity and a feeble grasp of the English language as the justification for the mods.That, at least, would be believable.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Par for the course...

    The only difference between what these these guys are doing and what every other corporate entity out there is doing is that Phorm got caught. This "grassroots" power-to-the-people stuff only works until someone figures out how to game it.

    Anon because I don't want the corporate entity that owns me seeing me admit I know about their (our?) astroturfing in public.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Talk about deceipt. The more publicity this receives the better.

  19. John
    Thumb Down

    Can of worms..........

    Here they come, wriggling out all covered in PR bullshit.

  20. Edwin


    "besides violating the site's policy they agree to abide by ?"

    Yes, but considering it's Wikipedia's *own* policy, it's a bit pot...kettle innit?

  21. neil hanvey

    hang on a minute

    so in light of this, is it ok to edit the wikipedia entry to say that they tried to remove parts of the entry? seeing as though they have admitted doing it is it not a fact that they tried to edit the entry? someone please look into this and update the wikipedia entry immediately ;)

  22. Jaster


    Who wants do buy a discredited company, with a product no-one will admit to buying, and has been shown to lie about the product .... anyone ....

  23. Luther Blissett

    Guerilla marketing?

    You know something big is at stake when the marketing turns into propagandizing and guerilla media manipulation. Say a letter of intent from the PRC to acquire the technology, subject to a successful pilot implementation - to wit, verifiable operation in the UK. That would be a big stake.

    A big stake thru the heart of humanity.

  24. Jonathan

    @Bill Fresher

    Look at Biographicon - you get to make a wiki page about yourself. Well an autobiography basically. Also has links to other people.

    "Hi Chris

    We let you know yesterday that we had proposed amendments to the Phorm entry on Wikipedia – there were several factual inaccuracies that were pointed out to us. Having reviewed our suggested changes with hindsight, we accept that we were a little over zealous in our efforts to make those corrections and that we erroneously removed some relevant items in the editing process. These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future."

    I think the proper, dignified, respectable response to this is STFU NOOB!

    I do like that they admitted it though. No one censors something if they have nothing to hide, or nothing they arent proud about. Phorm, unsurprisingly, has a veritable graveyard of skeletons in its closet.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I know El Reg readers don't have the best opinion of Wikipedia. But I think we can all agree that this wasn't just underhand, it was idiotic. About as subtle as swanning into the Guardian's office and trying to edit a hack's article on your company using their computer. While they're still sitting at it.

    You can influence a Wikipedia article one way or the other, especially positively. Rather than one, giant, anonymous whitewash, you do slight, gradual changes, explained in great tedious detail on the talk page, all of it couched in the language and jargon they feel comfortable with, and if you can't out-bore the other editors (admittedly a difficult task) then resort to the myriad Byzantine conflict-resolution processes. All of them, one by one. I won't go into more detail because I'm not doing their PR monkeys' work for free. If Phorm wants a whitewashed article, then they can sack whichever incompetent made the cackhanded first attempt and pay me £6,000 an hour in consultancy fees to get it done (I doubt I'm asking for much more than Citigate and the rest are getting for their conspicuous epic failure.) I'll also need enough crack and hoes during the negotiation process to annihilate my soul, of course, but that won't take long.

    Anonymous because I don't want to give the game away to Wikipedians and it's not like BT can't dip into my traffic to find out who I am.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    "Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy" ... yet they were posting anyway. That sounds like they clearly violated the a policy they choose to ignore in order to do what ever they wanted.

    When you sign up to any site you agree to be bound by their terms, its really that simple.

    Also they admit a mistake this time and that it won't happen again.... hmm dont belive them it definitately could happen in the future, 'sorry we gave all your data to someone even nastier than us, oops'

  27. bothwell
    Thumb Up

    Cant... stop... laughing...

    All aboard the Failboat!

    Phorm and BT - you couldn't handle this whole situation more egregiously if you tried. It is like watching the Keystone Cops.

  28. Fluffykins Silver badge


    I think I just came up with a new word for what Phorm are Phiddling with.

    Oh, and I want to change my signin name, but just for the phorm articles.



  29. Simon


    Is 36p, some pocket lint and half a dozen sweet wrappers an acceptable bid?

  30. Sceptical Bastard

    'Wisdom of herds' my arse

    Quote "Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest."

    Like hell, they hadn't. Lies, deceit and spin have characterised Phorm and BT's behaviour throughout this whole sorry saga. They cannot be trusted nor believed.

    But as Tim says (above), at least they're increasingly in the public eye in a bad light. It's sometimes said there's no such thing as bad PR - but that's bollocks.

    Unfortunately, Tim, I don't agree that the ISPs are "all backing away nervously." Carphone may have expressed reservations, but Virgin is sitting on the fence and BT is sticking to Phorm like shit to a blanket.

    The 'Phuck ophph, Phorm' campaign must continue. Aux armes, citoyens!

  31. James Whale

    No going back

    This "grassroots" thing is here to stay; we're too well-connected. Technology has empowered and organised people to the point where quickly distributing information and raising awareness is ridiculously easy, whilst corporate regulation of that same information is impossible.

    Phorm is all but dead. They've completely failed to factor in not only the public backlash against their nasty, cynical product which is totally antithetic to the current zeitgeist of openness and community, but also just how informed and united that public could become. BT, as usual, are likewise staggeringly slow on the uptake.

    Their fall will be the first of many slow-moving corporate entities which fail to understand that the make or break decision lies with a 21st century internet citizen - connected, informed, politicised, vocal and fast. We will not be sold to in such underhanded fashion, and we will ensure they fail should they try to deceive us.

  32. Matt
    Paris Hilton

    They should have got somone else to edit it

    If there genuinly were inacuracies then they should be corrected. End of story. You cant all complain about the wikipedia being a joke and then moan when someone corrects it.

    On the other hand who can trust this lot to edit their own page? so they should have just got somone else to do it.

    Paris - because i'm not funny at all and i like stale over done jokes because i'm not very original

  33. b shubin

    Spin to win

    how is this unusual? there was a large group of organizations (including the CIA and ExxonMobil) revealed some months ago (after the originating IPs were traced) to edit facts out of Wikipedia, in a blatant astroturfing move.

    this latest offering by Phorm is strictly pro phorma (oops, sorry) PR; so really, the bunnies were just doing their jobs, censoring reality to fit the corporate agenda.

    as for BT, the company appears well on its way to NSI glory. during the heady days of the Network Solutions monopoly, one of its executives actually threatened an aggrieved customer with violence. with pervasive government influence, ethics-free management (CTO moves to legally-ambiguous vendor, no problem?), and feeble regulatory oversight (Ofcom is just kidding, really), BT is poised to write the next chapter in NSI's old playbook.

    good luck with that, guys, and remember, an AT&T never dies; it reconstitutes itself like the T2000...a'course, as the new at&t, it's totally different, no?

  34. Richard

    Phorm update quote

    "We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future."

    I just love the ambiguity in that sentence. Is "this" referring to the articles being reverted by Wikipedia or the editing happening in the first place. I know which one my bet's on...

  35. StillNoCouch
    Paris Hilton


    I find myself morbidly amused. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. In this case, as this 'movie' progresses, we come to know the characters inside a little better each day ... and can't wait for the final impending wreck.

    Paris because her films weren't near as fun to watch.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Just how bad are they

    Just when you think you have these greasy little worms pegged they manage to slide down the scumbag scale another 5 pegs, and what is worse is that BT seem quite content to get dragged down with them.

    Either BT's big boss cannot see the end of a shot gun when it is an inch from his face or he doesn't know about it yet....and if it's the former then the amount he must be getting paid to kill a companies rep is sickening.

  37. ElFatbob


    Given the ferocity of Phorm's defence and BT's blatant lying, there must be some serious money going about here.

    This must be make or break(here's hoping) for Phorm with BT and the other telco's involved having been promised some substantial revenue.

    Obvious perhaps, but it leads me to another question. Have Phorm already got big players signed up to by their ill-gotten gains?

  38. Gilbert Wham

    any PR company (who aren't a bunch of wankers)?

    Name one.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And we are supposed to trust Phorm?

    Everything Phorm does and pretends to be, smacks of deception..

    How can anybody trust this outfit?

    They cannot be trusted with anybody's data in my opinion. They can't even market honestly!

    Every action on their part attempts to deceive. They misquote, take things out of context and I for one am very wary of them. So should you be!

  40. Alexander Hanff

    Is Phorm's COO a Virus?

    I was just spell checking my article after finishing the section on Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1997 when I noticed the recommended spelling for Phorm's COO (Virasb Vahidi) from my spell checker was "Virus".

    mine is the one made out of lead...

  41. TEQ

    Anyone else consider that this is very probably exactly what they meant.

    "These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future."

  42. Alexander Hanff


    My previous comment made reference to the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1997, this was a typo, it is actually 1977.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous consultant

    That was a harsh post - by the way, are you Hagbard Celine?

  44. PReDiToR

    Don't you delete my article!

    That's why I had to make the damn page.

    The last one Had been deleted under the advert guideline, I wrote it in on the Talk page. If they keep doing this, the article will never stay up.

    Use the Talk, Luke! Let the admins know that it isn't right to delete it.

  45. Tom Kelsall


    "I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services"

    No, nor do I. But removing fully accurate, publicy acknowledged by your own company, FACTS from the Wikipedia article is not "correcting". If BT can't see the conflict of interests in this action by Phorm, and the correctness of Wikipedia's response, then they're even thicker than I thought... and believe me, that's pretty thick.

  46. Tom

    'test to see if detectable'

    How can they argue this!?!?! If the test was to see if customers noticed, and they never informed there technical staff on the helpdesks, how can they know they're getting the correct results? if the staff don't know about the test, customer calls in reporting odd findings, tech staff them to reboot, end of story. This is a bloody fallacy of the highest order.

  47. pAnoNymous

    this will be fixed in the near future

    no need to worry people. once Phorm are able to change the pages viewed on the fly they won't need to make any more changes on the Wikipedia site. this is only a short term problem. don't worry, be happy.

  48. Anonymous Coward

    @James Whale, @Tom

    James, Unfortunatley I dont think we (the dissenters) can win this, BT at least will push on, take the hit in lost customers since they seem to stand to gain an £85 million revenue stream, whats a few customers?

    Tom, even though they didnt inform the tech help desks the trials were still detected regardless so I dont see how the trial could have been seen as a success.

    As for the statement "These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future." I guess this allows some wriggle room if it does happen again (or at least if they get caught!) since they are only going to endevour to see it doesnt happen again. Or did they mean that they will promise a nice new revenue stream to Wikipedia so that Phorms PR editings are not removed in future?

    I would love it if Phorm died a nasty death but unfortunatley I can't see it. I am looking for a new ISP that just wants to connect me to the web, no email, no bollocks like webwise, just a connection. We can all dream...........

  49. Secretgeek

    Ha haha haha ha ha..

    Phorm just can't get a break can they?

    Go on, try something else to try and improve your already phornicated public image.

    Go on.

    I dare you.

    You know you want to.

    Then just see how fast it gets ripped to shreds.

    Oh man, this story's made my morning.

  50. Spleen


    No, but thanks, now I have something to add to my reading list.

    In a nicely ironic twist, Phorm's attempt at Web 2.0 mastery is now documented in the Wikipedia article.


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