back to article Home Office defends 'dangerously misleading' Phorm thumbs-up

The Home Office today 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. Meanwhile, it has emerged that neither BT nor Phorm sought any government advice on the wiretapping trials conducted in autumn 2006 and summer 2007 …


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This is so cool...

>Foster's early day motion on the subject has now garnered 36 MPs' signatures, from all the major parties.<

My local Labour MP has signed that! I got a second letter from her yesterday, detailing it. God, maybe democracy does work. When I first wrote to her I didn't even expect a reply, never mind a followup letter.

So everyone, print off a letter and send it snail mail to your local MP, sometimes one man CAN make a difference.

Still waiting for a reply from Gordon Brown though. Still, he's probably got his hands full, what with the collapsing (alarmist) / slowing (dreamist) economy - rising petrol and global food shortages, house prices crashing and the sullen British population looking for a scapegoat.

Way to go El reg, keep the pressure up, it's even, finally, starting to appear on the BBC website.


Lets be fair

Ok so if I (and a group of my friends) followed Phormes MD 24/7 365 days a year, writing down details of every item he purchased and everything he looked at in the shops he would have no problems?


The sooner......

this is knocked on the head the better. I know the ISP's need to make more money, I know advertising is an inevitable part of the internet experience but I don’t believe anyone has the right to 'profile' my habits. Not because I'm a terrorist or a kiddie fiddler it's just not right.

If they want to profile people and advertise to them then only those who opt into the system should have their traffic sent through the Phorm stuff, everyone else should just have a straight internet connection.

On the subject of the notice shown to users I think it should be along the lines of:

"Dear customer, we are about to start intercepting ALL of your internet traffic, profiling your browsing habits and then we can give you better quality targeted advertising. We used to be spyware vendors but our team of Russian programmers have given all that up now. We promise not to steal any of your usernames or passwords or snoop on your bank details (honest, you can trust us)"

Bye Bye Phorm, Phuck right off.


That's that sorted then

"BT has refused The Register an interview regarding its actions over Phorm/Webwise. ®"

I was just thinking to myself this morning that the first time BT or Phorm came back with a simple "No comment", we would know that they had finally realised they were completely and utterly fucked.

I can't wait to what spin they do come up with in response to the excellent FIPR brief. After they've consulted with their legal people, no doubt.

Bad luck BT. You blinked.



Let's face it, they're guilty as sin.

Even if it does turn out that the program would be legal with consent, they definitely didn't have consent for their trials, so the trials were not legal. They illegally handed over personal information on tens of thousands of people to a company which until now was well known only for their delightful line in adware.

BT can claim what they like. They handed private information over to an untrustworthy source (BT might trust Phorm, but I sure as hell don't). I don't understand why there hasn't been more of an uproar. Imagine if the Royal Mail decided to make a bit of extra cash by seeking out the people who send the random faxes offering secret auctions and prescription drugs to random people's fax machines and letting them go through everyone's mail to see who might be interested in their products.

As far as I can see, all that remains to be determined is how big a fine and how grovelling an apology BT should have to face...


Yes but ..

<..>Ultimately it is a free commercial market and providers of goods and services need only ensure they are compliant with relevant legislation.<...>

We simply want to know who exactly is going to step up when they are clearly not compliant.

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Wiretapping, still.

Would anyone allow telephone conversations to be "recorded" with "no personally identifying information"?

I didn't think so!


BT EULA change would legitimise Phorm?

Just wondering .. if BT changes their EULA to make customers agree to the Phorm factor, then it's all legit?

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Thanks el-reg.

This discussion needs to be kept alive with small stories and comments with regular intervals. There are far too many interested parties who would just like this story to go away so they can pursue their own specialist interest in 'sand-box mode' without interference of some 'annoying' democratically founded 'rights'.


What is the stance of OFCOM? anyone heard?

Comments from them have been noticably lacking.

Isn't their primary role the regulation of the telecomms operators?

Mine now has "Phuck orf Phorm" tastefully picked out in Rhinestones :-)


Let he who is without sin

"...not opposed to a (sic) ISP tracking..."

Anonymous Coward

Consumer/Public protection ? It is all an illusion !!

I have been through my own personal crusade trying to get justice, including from the Courts, the ICO, the Law Society etc etc and I can tell you that I came up blank. I knew then myself that the way this Country/Society works is that the Government basically hoodwinks Joe Public into believing that their tax monies have provided an excellent protection for them in the shape of places like the ICO, the Court system,

the OFT and others, but the fact of the matter is that this is all BS ,and at the end of the day there is no justice, there is no protection from misuse of your data and there is no remedy for anyone. What the Government relies on to get away with this illusion is that 99.9% of Joe Public will never need such services,remedies or protection and it is only when the few try that they realise that there is nothing.

Welcome to the truth BT consumers, who now realise this fact.



I would have thought that BT would have given up by now instead of sticking with their stubborn ways. Perhaps if web sites were to insert a script to check the domain of their visitors and refuse to serve pages to BT customers. This would destroy BT retail as an ISP and serve as a lesson to malware providers that people are not prepared to be spied upon for someone else's commercial advantage.

I doubt it would take very much to turn VM into scrap paper either. Certainly companies like Tiscali are in financial difficulty and would disappear when their users can no longer access web sites.

Word of advice for BT et al, when you are in a hole, stop digging!


A check list for the BT Board of Directors

Honestly, on a scale of 1/10 how well do you think you've handled this ill fated phorm trial?

(lifted directly from

Board Responsibilities

The BT Group plc Board is ultimately responsible for the strategy and overseeing the performance of the BT Group. Its focus is:




Growing shareholder value

Oversight and control

Corporate governance

In support of this focus the following matters are reserved for the Board to approve or monitor:

Setting Direction

Vision, Mission, Values, Ethics and Business Practice


Strategic Plans, as proposed by the Operating Committee

Group Annual Budget

Capital Expenditure and Investments budgets and any changes which result in aggregate expenditure or aggregate outstanding commitments being exceeded

Capital expenditure projects over £100m

Investments (i.e. acquisitions, disposals including assets or business activities, outsourcing arrangements) with a consideration/value over £100m (together with additional funding if such additional funding would result in the revised aggregate additional funding being over £100m since the previous funding authority from the Board) or where of major strategic importance or on the request of the CEO or Finance Director

Customer contracts, bids and tenders of major strategic importance or which are referred at the discretion of the CEO

Proposals involving another company acquiring any interest in BT Group plc

Any issues of major strategic importance to the Group


Financing Policy and Annual Financing Programme

External financing by issue of equity or rights to equity including quoted debt securities by BT Group plc or any subsidiary

Pensions policy, funding and material matters in relation to accounting reporting and industrial/employee relations

Appointment of the Pension Fund Trustees and of Hermes

Appointment, removal and remuneration of external auditors for BT Group plc

Appointment or removal of Directors and the Secretary

Oversight and Control

Operating and financial performance

Major changes to accounting practices

Internal controls

Compliance (securities, legal and regulatory)

Major public policy issues including matters which would have a significant impact on the Group's reputation

Share Dealing Code compliance

Policy for Directors' & Officers' insurance and indemnity

Political donations policy

Powers reserved to senior management

Composition and terms of reference of Board Committees

Stakeholder relationships

Necessary shareholder communications, including e.g. Annual Report

New employee share schemes and major changes to existing schemes other than those which do not require shareholder approval

Major changes to pension provision and pensions funding

Community Support policy

accountability is a wonderful thing.



"In a statement, the Home Office emphasised that the note should not be taken as gospel by anyone. It said: "We can't comment on the legal position of targeted online advertising services. It is up for [sic] the courts to interpret the law."

Then what is the point of issuing guidance. Shame on

Anonymous Coward

Typical Government mismanagement

I have read the open letter by Nicholas Bohm and how the (Home Office) Government can dismiss it is beyond me!

Maybe the document is too complicated for Jacqui Smith just like the sums for the 10percent tax rate.

It's a disgrace that they can dismiss such a well informed and well prepared document so easily.

Maybe we should emigrate to Zimbabwe, a place where a Government acts on the law of the land far more honestly in comparison.

How does it go ? Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. or maybe: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"


I've said it previously…

But most of these articles seem to be missing the big technical issue with Phorm: no matter what BT and Phorm say, there is actually NO way to opt out. Your browser _will not_ send the “opt out” cookie to anything except the host it was issued by (i.e., Phorm's ad-serving network), which means whilst the cookie will tell Phorm not to USE your personal information when serving adverts, it will still be collected by the WebWise intercept device and passed on for collection—the information provided by BT, Phorm, et al, suggests that the intercept host itself has no mechanism to honour your opt-out request.

Obviously, if it's the case that BT and Phorm have lied to us (shock! horror!) and the opt-out mechanism is something other than via a cookie, then it's possible that you can opt out, but if it really is just a cookie, your information will be collected, stored, collated and filed, whether you consent or not.


What if I use two browsers

Just had a thought. I use both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Will I have to Opt out twice?

Also, the way I see it Phorm have to break the law by intercepting my data first and then ask me do I want to Opt out or in?

If I opt out (wont everybody?) my data still gets intercepted but they kindly(sic) don't use the data they have already profiled.

This is a Joke - Government get a grip!

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Beaten Dockets

"We welcome companies sharing commercially sensitive ideas and proposals with us in confidence if that means public safety considerations and legal obligation [sic] can be taken into account, where appropriate, in the conception of new products and services. " ..... Unfortunately, in confidence is invariably abused to ensure more ......private considerations than public service as Government has evolved/been subverted to Private Sector Profit Factoring to the Detriment of Excellence of Service. And as Human Resources and Perceptions Managers, they are somewhat unnecessary as they have no knowledge of popular trends/MetaDatamined information/Phorm.


When is a defence not a defence?

Surely the Home Office were judiciously defending the fact that they gave advice to Phorm, not the actual content of that advice. You always have to read civil servants' prose very carefully!

I'd say that shows they now know their advice was wrong. They can't say so, however, because that would (a) show them in a bad light, (b) get Phorm/BT on their backs and (c) discourage others from seeking their informal advice in future.

They have, however, accepted that the matter can only be decided by the courts. Maybe they could advise on how that could be brought about since that is clearly now the focus of the campaign. It is not acceptable that we have laws to protect the public if there is no means of enforcing them.


The fact remains ...

You CANNOT sign away your rights even if you want to. For example, it takes an act of parliament to renounce a title and become just plain Mr. It actually requires a new law to be written saying you can do it.

You cannot call something legal just because some dumbo "opts in" -- murder is still illegal even if I WANT someone to murder me.

Using me as a slave is STILL ILLEGAL even if I choose to waive my rights as a free citizen.

Wire tapping (because phorm is nothing else) IS ILLEGAL EVEN IF I WANT TO BE WIRE TAPPED.

Are the mindless fucking dullards who run this excuse for a democracy too in-bred to read existing legal prior art and get proper legally qualified people (judges) to STATE, once and for all, IT IS IRRELEVANT WHAT THE HOME OFFICE “THINKS” OR LAYS CLAIM TO THINK -- PHUCKING PHORM IS NOT LEGAL.


Is this APT?? . . .

. . . You tell me!! . . .

All I ask is for you to read through to the end and answer THE QUESTIONS!!

Morpheus: I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like Alice. Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Neo: You could say that.

Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he's expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?

Neo: No.

Morpheus: Why not?

Neo: 'Cause I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.

Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind -- driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Neo: The Matrix?

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

(Neo nods his head.)

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.

(In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)

Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (a red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.

(Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water).

Q: Did UK Gov, ICO, Ofcom, BT, Phorm, VM, CPW and all other 'Authorative' contributors, take the Blue pill or the Red pill??

My answer: They took the Red pill to . . . 'See how deep the rabbit hole goes' . . . Into our pockets via taxes. Into our privacy via our browsing history and into our lives via making the majority feel Un-PC for not toe-ing the line!!

Q: Which colour pill do all the above want you to take?

My answer: The Blue pill of course!! Remember . . . "You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." . . . True, true, so long as THEY control your beliefs!!

Q: So which pill did YOU take??!!

My answer: I didn't take either one . . . I woke up to reality long before The Matrix could get it's claws in to me and I watched you all slowly descend into it's clutches.

Which is a pity really because before you took either colour of pill, you were truly great people, who had clarity of thought and a topnotch sense of Right & Wrong.


Depends on which colour pill you want to swallow!!

Red, Blue or none . . . They are all bitter ones!!


cookies and cr@p

two points

one is of cookies, for every website you visit phorm will put a cookie addressed from that site with your ID (random number) on iton your pc, it does this by masqarading as the website you are visiting so as to get your browser to accept it and not treat it as a third party cookie which most block, this blow out the water any site that has a privacy policy that says "we don't drop cookies" as you will have one from them dated and time when you visited their site BUT with your phorm id on it

the other is the webwise antiphishing filter, this is what is going to be used to pursuad users to sign upas no one would sign up for a purely edvertising service.

the anti-phishing filter is the same as the one built into most current browsers and if not it is in your internet security software, and if you are stupid enough to not have either you deserve phorm

nuf said


Interesting read...

An up-to-date pitch to investors about Phorm. Covers their thoughts on commercial prospects, competitors, PR, etc.


Power to the FIPR's elbow

Nicholas Bohm and colleagues have produced a paper covering the complex details that is straightforward and makes both the legal and technical aspects comprehensible.

Arguably I'm biased by my concerns about the issue of profiling, but it was a delight to read.


@ Matt Sidall

-------------------- Snip --------------------

As far as I can see, all that remains to be determined is how big a fine and how grovelling an apology BT should have to face...

-------------------- End --------------------

Nope - Don't fine them! That cost will only be passed on to the innocent consumer.

Jail time for the executives concerned is the only way.



That's part of the problem - they think it is, and a lot of us think it isn't.

Under the terms of the RIPA, interception of the communication for reasons other than the provision of the servcie requires the agreement from both sides.

Therefore since I do NOT give Phorm/ISP permission to monitor access to my websites, if anyone on an intercepted connection browses my sites then the act is broken.

The problem with the "real" opt in option is that at that point it's unclear as to whether the person who is browsing is breaking the law rather than Phorm - since Phorm can claim they were given permission. However, this is based on the assumption that Phorm's "assumed permission" from websites is a valid assumption - another point that people do not agree with. I also believe that if we make sure to tell them that our servers are NOT a fair target, they cannot then act on the permission from the user - which should require them to put in blacklists/whitelists for which sites they can monitor. Then all we need to do is get enough sites like google to tell them to get lost, and their product becomes worthless.

Anonymous Coward

@Interesting read...

Nicholas Bohm has since blown apart a lot of the legality claims contained in that particular article within that financial PDF you reference. Also the Home Office claims no longer apply. I bet the writers wish they had left it a week later before recomending. I think ultimately there will be a lot of out of pocket investors. I also suspect that Kent ultimately will wish he had left UK alone and stuck with the more relaxed American market.

@Werner McGoole. I think you may have a very good point. The first Phorm legal court case will blow Phorm out of the water and if the ISP's continue with their Webwise produce I suspect a few of the directors could have an enforced 'holiday' from their families when the full force of the law is finally applied.

Incidentally, I strongly suspect VM among others have also trialled

illegally. Come on someone - blow the whistle!

Black Helicopters

There's that phrase again...

"probably be legal if consent is obtained"

Yo! Home Office!



If PROBABLY is the best you can do, then you should PROBABLY investigate properly.

Then again, this technology is PROBABLY what YOU want, but PROBABLY don't have the brassneck to come straight out with.

Bet I'm PROBABLY right.

(looking out for the BH's which are PROBABLY circling!)


@Greg Fleming

Top rant mate, but actually wire tapping *is* perfectly legal if you agree to it. Never phoned a call centre and heard, "Calls are recorded for training purposes"?

As long as *all* parties consent, you can record a telephone call, but that's the central argument here isn't it. I would *not* consent to Phorm, so they can FRO :-)


Shares in BT

Found out last night my mother still has shares in BT she is in her 80s so can't get to AGM's anymore and has been allowing the chair to use her votes.. I have asked her if I can represent her at the n ext AGM :D Is this allowed?

Can I ask questions if I go and get answers?

this could be interesting...


Stop me if i'm wrong...

but if the answer is "let the courts sort it out" surely that means the government is condoning an potentially illegal activity just to see if it is illegal or not. Lets examine that logic for a minute.

The way I see it is that what the government is saying (leading by example) is that if I want to find out if something is illegal is to do it, and see if I get convicted. Now, where's that axe?

It has to be the government's responsibility to give a definitive answer when asked a question like that, and if a minister does not feel legally qualified to produce an answer there are whole teams of lawyers and judges who examine legal issues day in and day out. Cop. Out.

Mine's the one with the one-way ticket to Australia in the pocket.

Paris Hilton

One thing

I've seen a few times is that express permission needs to be obtained from BOTH sides of the connection. Surely that means the user AND the website.

How is anyone going to get permission from all of the websites for Phorm type profiling to be legal in the UK?

As I see it, if my ISA introduces Phorm I merely need to visit a UK website (which expressly denies this permission) from a UK based PC using a UK based ISP, to make their entire system either illegal or unmanageable. What would be the monetary cost of checking whether a website gave *express permission* (not merely opted in by default) or *expressly denied* permission?

So, those El Reg readers who run websites, how about putting in a paragraph in your terms & conditions expressly denying the use of pages served by your website in any form of profiling?

I have already done this on my site, and am waiting for my ISP to introduce Phorm (or it's successor.)



So Phorm are upset because FIPR are 'pushing their own agenda'.

Given FIPR exists to advise on Internet Privacy , what other agenda , other than pointing out illegal interceptions, should they be following?

or does kent mean 'infamy , infamy -- they've all got it in for me' .

One suspects the latest 'statement' from phorm is a very good indicator as to how worried they currently are.

Attacking the motives behind the FIPR release rather than addressing the concerns within it.

Although that appears to be Kent's modus operandi in recent times.


@Update from Phorm

"FIPR is abusing its influence and promoting its own agenda by encouraging a frivolous debate ... rather than undermine the online privacy debate and block technological progress."

Most of the people I meet fighting Phorm are the very technologists progressing the internet today.

In fact nearly every engineer I meet on a site visit brings up the subject of Phorm, without prompting, and none has had a good word to say about the underlying technology or the moral boundary being transgressed.

When will Phorm PR learn not to treat those who know more than them about the internet like idiots (to put it politely).


Data protection?

Regarding the Home Office and its 'advice', firstly I suggest that they consult the ICO before spouting off in future; secondly, when their 'advice' proves to be wrong, I wish they'd have the good grace to admit it without all the weasel words and wriggling.

But with a lamer like Jacqui Smug in charge, their reaction now should be no surprise.

Turning to the data protection issue, as I understand it, surely BT is a 'data controller' as defined by The Data Protection Act? As such, it must be on the Commissioner's register of data controllers?

If BT *is* a data controller as defined by the Act, then it must comply with the principles of data protection set out in the Data Protection Act.

Unless I've got it wrong, any information held by a data controller MUST BE:

* fairly and lawfully processed;

* processed only for the specified purpose;

* relevant and not excessive;

* accurate and, where necessary, updated;

* processed with regard to your rights;

* held securely; and

* deleted immediately upon your written request

Information must NOT BE:

* held for longer than necessary;

* processed by any other organisation;

* revealed to or shared with any other organisation;

* transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area;

* sold to any other organisation for commercial gain or other reasons.

From that, it would appear that BT data pimping to Phorm contravenes several principles under the Data Protection Act, let alone being illegal under RIPA.

Once again, our thanks are due to El Reg for helping to keep this story in the public eye.

Phuck Phorm - may its share price continue to phall.


@Dan White

"Never phoned a call centre and heard, "Calls are recorded for training purposes"

AFAIK that's different, as a) the call centre is the recipient, and b)they are authorised to record calls for quality purposes under RIPA (Can't recall the section number off the top of my head).

In fact, AIUI they don't even have to tell you. They certainly don't have to gain consent, and if they did, a recording telling you that they were going to do it would not be sufficient (in theory, although the way things are looking at the moment, who can be sure)


Re: Shares in BT

Why not just by a share in Phorm - around £15 at the moment - and go to their AGM?

In fact, why not get a couple of hundred people to buy one share each, turn up at the company and just kick off?


Interesting read...

Page 5

Low Technology Risk – For a technology start-up company, we judge the technology

risks themselves to be unusually low. First, the management team’s own technical

credentials are immensely strong, with recent highly relevant experience in the

adware market, via Phorm’s predecessor company, 121 Media, with a highly capable

software development team in Russia, and with senior technologists who formerly

held comparable positions within BT and Microsoft, amongst others. Second, the

development of the concept and technology has been undertaken over seven years.

And third, the launch customers – BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media – have

also undergone extensive trialling of the technology, and none are in the business of

taking unnecessary risks on new technology adoption.

Technology risk is low…

Now correct me if I am wrong, but this paragraph is misleading investors in a HUGE way. BT, Carphone and Virgin are not customers, they are suppliers. Phorm will be paying BT £85 million per year for the profiling data. Now thats a lot of clicks to sell to pay for that data. Presumably the cost is constant as the data has to be collected in order for it to be used. If no one clicks on an OIX advert then Phorm are out of pocket to the tune of £85million.

Maybe this should be the line used when discussing Phorm with investment types. Do they have the CUSTOMER base to be able to afford to pay their suppliers.


@update from Phorm

translation: "...and I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you pesky kids."

Black Helicopters

Re: Stop me if i'm wrong...

I rather think (after reading the Phorm pdf, linked to by AC above) it's more a case of the government are allowing this to go ahead and *if* the profiling is indeed found to be illegal they will simply 'tweak' the offending bits of the law so it isn't anymore.

Make no mistakes - the Government want this technology. They may already have the ability to remotely mirror/monitor and even block (at DNS level) web traffic but they will be drooling over the possibilities of exploiting Phorm's technology - to do this more directly (and maybe even more discreetly, page by page) at the ISP level.

The opt-in/out of receiving targeted Ads is irrelevant - they will have the ability to not only monitor all traffic but also to modify/block it at the gateway (whether opted in or out of Ads and irrespective of using alternate DNS lookups like OpenDNS or even direct IP).

This is what makes the technology so dangerous and also so worrying.


@Florence - BT shares

Just buy one single share, then you are entitled to attend the AGM and ask what questions you like. Then you don't have to worry about representing your granny.

Share price is 217.75p. (It'll cost you about fifteen quid in dealing charges, though.)


A title is required.

Also from the Interesting read article:

Having made this 75% payment to the publisher, the retained 25% portion represents

Phorm’s net revenues. There should be no working capital issue, as Phorm is likely to

pay out to the ISP only once the advertisers have settled their invoice, and Phorm has

carried out whatever reconciliation process is necessary.

This suggests that form will only be paying the ISPs for profiles that generate clicks. do they know which profiles to pay for as they claim that the data is anonymised?

This is also going to lead to a situation whereby the ISPs wish to know which users are the most profitable vs those that just cruise the internet. This will help them to make decisions such as what discount to offer browsers when they threaten to leave an ISP.


The major reason the ICO wont press for a prosecution is...

the government & civil service want Phorm and companion services introduced. If the “powers that be” can sequester or gain access to even aggregate browsing data then they have something better than the best focus group info. There is no incentive for them to oppose, investigate or prosecute. WGAF about individual anonymity, freedom & responsibility in government in the present climate? We are all potential criminals and must be monitorable for our and their good. I’m not paranoid and I don’t (recall) having anything significant to hide but that is not the point. We aren’t supposed to be living in East Germany in the 60s & 70s or China anytime. I’ve not been a good citizen and paid my taxes to have an 3rd party spy on my activities - even with my consent. Virgin Media, and the rest, be well advised – it will “end in tears before bed time” if you roll out this invasive technology so do something better to raise revenue before it’s too late.


Presumed Consent

Amongst many others, there is an interesting difference between the level of detail between the Home Office assessment and Bohm's with respect to the presumed consent of Webmasters to access by Phorm.

The Home Office makes the assumption that "because it's on the web, then a search engine can get to it, therefore it's open to anyone, including Phorm".

As Bohm points out, that ain't so. In common with many others, my web site has some private areas. The private areas do not have links from anywhere else on the web, so search engines cannot find them. However, because Phorm follows the user, not a spider, if I've told anyone how to get to the private area, then Phorm can follow them there - and it does not give me, as webmaster a way of preventing this (aside from restructuring the pages by encryiption).

Phorm is presuming a consent which I do not grant!


Clearly rattled

Phorm's response -and BT's 'no comment' suggests they're getting a little rattled. Gone is Kent's chummy "we'd love to meet and chat to you about how much good we're doing humanity" and it's in with the more traditional swill gobblers defence of "legitimate business". It evidently feels a little different when your "legitimate" victims aren't just taking their "privacy enhancing" e-commerce rogering with a grimace and a mild whimper, but actually have the temerity to hit back.

There's a good deal of pleasure in watching that share value head to the depths where it belongs. Better polish up yer MiG-25s mate, you might yet need them again to earn a crust.

Anonymous Coward

Shame The Law Of The Land Says Phorm Is Illegal...

So ignoring the challenges and questions hasn't worked for Phorm, they're now slagging off everyone they can find who opposes them.

Bottom line is that the law of the land says that Phorm is illegal. Debates about legality cannot be frivolous. Of course, Phorm could have aided that particular discussion by publishing the full legal opinon they claim to have received and the details of the QC who provided it. But they haven't.

In the face of a rightful kicking by the FIPR the Home Office has done the only thing it could under the circumstances and said their [misleading and incomplete according to FIPR] "advice" has no legal status.

Phorm's reaction suggests that this advice was actually the only legal opinon they had. Can they prove otherwise?

FIPR is standing up for the rights of the internet consumer under the law of the land. That is not abusing its influence. Spreading misinformation, "overzealous" PR, abusive staff and failing to be open and honest in response to questions is abusing your influence.

"We don't like something so we'll change the law to allow it" is the kind of thing one might expect to see in Zimbabwe.

There's unedited, spin free footage of the recent public meeting at where you can see Kent fail to offer a convincing response on any of the issues raised by Dr Richard Clayton and Alexander Hanff.


Re Phorm's response...

"That would help people to make valid informed choices about the services they want to use."

And my valid, informed choice is that I want nothing to do with their illegal, immoral scumware.

How the fuck can they bang on about people making "informed choices" when they lie through their teeth about what their crapware does and try to shout down anyone who says different??


frivolous debate

Consumer and legal details aside for the moment what is Phorm's proposition?

They want to insert themselves directly into someone else's value chain and tap off whatever they want in order to build a business. Remind me again, what is the biological term for an organism acting in this way?

Anonymous Coward

Government prototype

I'm sure HMG is delighted that, as so often, private enterprise is breaking the trail for them to follow. When ministers contemplate Phorm, I imagine the only reaction they feel is deep envy.



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