back to article BT silences customers over Phorm

BT has banned all future discussion of Phorm and its "WebWise" targeted advertising product on its customer forums, and deleted all past threads about the controversy dating back to February. Subscribers to BT's broadband packages had used the BT Beta forums to criticise its relationship with Phorm and raise concerns about the …

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Anonymous Coward

Absolute Cobblers

"He said the fact that BT had chosen not only to close the threads but delete them entirely was insignificant. "

Yeah, right. And salmon live in trees and eat pencils.

This is BT trying to hide all of its dealings with a company that has repeatedly failed to answer straight questions and the fact that a lot of their customers are very p*ssed off about it. Try as they might BT can't airbrush away their involvement with Phorm.

http://tobymeres.net for anyone new to this ongoing issue - Phorm failing completely to address the issues raised about its legality and trustworthiness.

And anyone with BT should drop them. Now.

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Stop

Another reason

If you needed one, to avoid using BT for anything.

What ever happened to reasoned debate?

I had problems with Dell and a dead lappy battery, and they did the same thing. Deleted my posts, and then the entire thread, twice. And then threatened me with booting me off their forums.

Fascists!

Stop, for obvious reasons.

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A bit of Basil Fawlty going on here?

"Don't mention the Phorm, I might have mentioned it once or twice but I think I got away with it."

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Scum

Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me.

They are scum who want to fuck any and all money out of you as they can, they couldn't care less about your privacy or rights.

Utter scum.

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Stop

Oh really?

Censor this then BT!

In two months my broadband contract is over and I am not going to renew it, purely because of the Phorm/Webwise issue. And no offers of "loyal customer" discounts or free digital TV boxes are going to change my mind.

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The first rule of Phorm club is...

... you do not talk about Phorm club.

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Jobs Horns

New CEO?

Did I miss the story where it was announced that Steve Jobs is the new CEO of BT ... ?

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Black Helicopters

tells you all you need to know

If it (webwise) was a good thing, then BT would be able to defend any criticism of it.

Bad move BT, now we REALLY think you've something to hide!

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Black Helicopters

Customer service manual written 60 years ago ?

"He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

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Dodgey

Stop your customers discussing something that might make them leave shocker.

Dodgey to say the least, seems like BT have something to hide.

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Flame

Customer Choice goes too !!!

It may just be a 'technical glitch' but customer choice seems to have disappeared too.

The Webwise Q&A section asks:

"How can I distinguish between cookies that were placed by Webwise and those given to me by websites I visited?

The Webwise cookie is clearly named "webwise-uid" so it can be easily identified. It will either contain the unique identifier string if you’re opted in or it will contain "OPTED_OUT" if you are not.

As explained on the >>>Customer Choice<<< Process page, when a user opts into the BT Webwise service, a Webwise UID cookie, containing a unique random number is placed on the user’s computer. This master cookie is held is the Webwise.net domain. When the user then visits other websites, the Webwise system stores a copy of the Webwise UID cookie within the browser in each the website domains visited by the user. The cookies are clearly labelled as belonging to Webwise as noted above and as a result can be easily identified as different to those cookies which may be placed by the website itself."

The link to the customer choice page now returns a 404 error

http://www2.bt.com/static/i/btretail/webwise/customer-choice

This page was the home of the diagram which showed the browser hijack that enabled the forged cookies to be set. It is still visible in the Google cache for those who have not seen it before.

http://216.239.59.132/search?q=cache:4eivn4MyRSQJ:www2.bt.com/static/i/btretail/webwise/customer_choice.html+site:www2.bt.com+%22customer+choice%22&hl=en

Are they trying to remove evidence that can be used in a class action by websites that object to BT adding forged cookies that claim to be from every domain visited but are really evidence of BT fraudulently impersonating other websites?

If you find a webwise-check or webwise-uid cookie on your computer, please make a copy of the cookie file before deleting the cookie. The class action needs evidence which has so far been the one problem with any legal action re the 2006 and 2007 trails where cookies and cache were quickly deleted by anyone who discovered the hijacked performed during those trials.

If you can also save browser logs showing the hijack / redirection that sets the cookies, even better.

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Daft buggers

What better way to get something talked about than to ban discussion of it...!

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Black Helicopters

Makes sense

If I was illegally wire-tapping people, selling this data to advertisers and then 'marketing' it as some type of security benefit to my own customers, I wouldn't want said customers discussing it on my own website! That would be awful for business.

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BT censorship nothig more

BT would rather delete the posts than answer valid questions in over 200 pages many with questions that needed an answer you would have seen none at all from any BT representative.

Not only was theBT webwise thread removed but threads that proved BT had failed to deliver MAC keys within the permitted time laid by OFCOM. This I do know for sure since I participated in the MAC thread due to BT taking almost 4 weeks to generate a MAC for my son.

The ICO and Phorm's PIA both have in them that BT needs to communicate with customers about this technology instead BT response is to delete emails unread, fail to reply at all or reply only when the sender has CC the email to others like ICO, OFCOM or MEPs.

In all replies there is total failure to ease the fears of many customers, the paranoia this type of snooping causes. The inability to make BTwebwise opt-in instead of opt-out. The total lack of care that customers who do not opt-in would still be sent through the profiler which leads to still intercepting a communication without consent since they didn’t opt-in.

Then there is the copyright all websites have T&C that allow the visitor to do a temp copy to read the page all websites do have clauses that copies or part copies cannot be used for commercial gain.

BT has the same on their sites. BT shop quotes “Copyright

The content of the Site is protected by copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights as applicable and is provided solely for your own use. Republication or redistribution of any of the content available on the Site including by framing or similar means is prohibited.”

Dabs owned by BT. Indemnity (applies only to non-consumer customers)

You shall indemnify and hold us harmless from all losses, liabilities, costs and expenses in connection with any claim by any third party with respect to any alleged or actual infringement of copyright, trademark, Service mark or any other proprietary rights or any false or misleading statements or breach of advertising standards resulting from the use of this Service by you. This clause shall survive termination of this agreement for any reason whatsoever.

So is BT now going to communicate?

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Coat

I for one.....

...welcome our forum-thread-and-post deleting overlords.

Hmm, wonder if this will make it past the moderator :)

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Anonymous Coward

If leaving BT check your final bill

I did and it looks like there may have been a bit of BTAAP (BT accepted accounting principles). It certainly looks too high and I've queried it.

So check your final bill as you close BT's door behind you.

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Black Helicopters

1984 anyone?

Nuff Said

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Isn't this

very bad phorm?

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Stop

Bt contacts page

Sent them a nice little message, have copied it to some others as well

"How are you going to avoid being jointly reposible for the breach of copyright and the breach of RIPA when your parteners scan the numerous websites that I own, without my consent, and use the contents for commercial gain and to support the advertising of my competitors?

Should I become aware of any such breaches from my server logs I shall seek legal redress from all those parties concerned including BT, Phorm and the advertiser whose adverts you then deliver to your Broadband customers as a result of the information you have gleaned from my site."

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But they removed their own post too...

The strange thing about all this censorship is that BT even removed their OWN announcement about the current Webwise trial. It seems that not only do BT not want to engage with their customers (not a single reply to a customer during the whole life of the Webwise Technical Trial discussion thread) but they are even embarrassed about mentioning Webwise themselves - the moderator posted an announcement about the new Webwise trial on 29th September and even THAT has been deleted.

It's very difficult to hold a constructive discussion with your ISP when they never reply. The only time a BT staff member ever visited that Trial Discussion thread was to censor, delete or edit a post for what they deemed was unacceptable content. As they kept making up new guidelines as they went along it was difficult to keep up. The one consistent thing was - they never engaged with customers about Webwise.

The product that dare not speak its name is hiding under the covers. So much for transparency and openness. Perhaps the ICO will want an explanation, as according to his office, BT are meant to be engaging with their customers. As Adam Liversage might say - "yeah"!

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Alien

"Adam Liversage, BT's chief press officer, told The Register: WebWise threads weren't appropriate"

Perhaps its because they've seen sense and are about to announce the decision to pull the phlug?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scum

"Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me."

Because plenty of people were daft enough to sign up for their deals which included an 18 month lock-in. My parents did this, even after I said, "whatever you do, don't sign up with BT". Sigh... the concept of broadband and phone provider being independant still confuses too many people.

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Stalinist purges and revisionism

Not just deleting the threads, but banning users who asked where any further information would be posted, found their posts missing, and then posted them again.

Like many jumped up fascist forum mods all over the intertubes, BT's moderators will not have their actions questioned. From the looks of the discussions on NoDPI and other places, quite a few users have been banned. Including me, but then I was fairly rude, as is my wont.

There also seems to be an ongoing attempt to edit other threads which may contain traces of Phorm, or that linked to the threads that have been removed.

I'm no longer surprised that BT believe that it's acceptable to treat customers with such contempt, but it still really boils my piss.

Oh yeah : @ Joe K "Why anyone would stick with BT over this is beyond me."

Because some of us are still in lengthy contracts and have to wait until the expiry dates or pay BT shit loads of cash, that's why. Contract ends, BT gone, and if they keep acting like this, contract torn up, BT sued. It will be an entirely futile gesture I'm sure.

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Anonymous Coward

LLU?

As I understand, BT have to allow other operators to install their kit into exchanges, or at least allow access wholesale to the lines in order to not breach monopolies legislation.

Do we yet know if these other providers, using BT fibre and copper, will be TOTALLY seperate from the Phorm-connected network?

Will we have to start setting fire to exchanges?

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Anonymous Coward

Apparently

It's not so good to talk...

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Anonymous Coward

Phorm share price and BT's reputation

Phorm share price is still looking pretty poor. Temporary rise last week but general direction is still downwards.

BT can hope that Phorm's impending collapse might let them off the hook, but I think they'll find that the technical community have long memories. This may not be good news for them, particularly as it's this technical community that act as advisors to non-techie friends and relations, and, in my case, in my capacity as an IT architect, to businesses.

Friend: "I want to get a better broadband deal, is the BT deal a good one?"

Me: "No."

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Anonymous Coward

Is BT a fruit?

Seems they have taken a large leaf out of Apples rulebook

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B(loody) T(errible)

Useful address:

BT plc,

Complaints Review Service,

110 Europa Boulevard,

Westbrook,

Warrington,

WA5 5FZ.

Keep it handy. You never know when you might need it.

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Agree with makesense comment

While BT are the Epitomy of everything that is wrong with corporations, you can see why they did this.

Why would you sneak an illegal trial of spying software on your unsuspecting customers, then run another trial (allegedly now compliant with the law), mislead your customers as to the true nature of the software (dress it up as a benefit) then have people expose it (and your deceit) for what it is it on your own forums?

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Law
Paris Hilton

OK - I want to avoid them... but how?!

I'm about to move into a new house... I'm with Sky Broadband at the minute and want to continue with them, but I will need to pay BT to install a new line as the new place is brand new... do I have a choice of paying somebody else?? Before you say Virgin, I vowed never to use them ever again, plus they are not in the area.

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Bronze badge

Streisand effect.

Not attracting attention: You're doing it wrong.

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Pirate

It's a shame

It's a shame they deleted all the past posts. Some of the comments posted to those were quite amusing.

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Black Helicopters

Coincidence?

Is it simple coinkydink that these threads are pulled at the same time as BTinternet users suddenly find their browsers unable to download redirected pages?

Hmmm...

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Pirate

You ain't see nothin'...

...right?

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Unhappy

Technical support?

"Our broadband support forums are designed to be a place where customers can discuss technical support issues and offer solutions. "

Surely the discussion of how to prevent the tapping of your communications is a legitimate tech support issue and I can offer a solution.................

Phuck off BT

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Running scared?

Can't take the criticism? Delete the thread. Great move.

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Mat

Titles are for pansies!

Seems to me that BT are quite adept at shooting themselves in the foot.

Do they honestly think that the Phorm controversy is going to just go away?

Idiots!

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OK - I want to avoid them... but how?! - By Law

With regards to the phone line you are pretty much stuffed. But you are paying for a phone line, simple. The phorm travesty is simply to do with internet connectivity.

By having a BT phone line doesnt enroll you into the Phorm system. That would depend on you signing up to BT's internet service.

So paying BT for a phone line is pretty much unavoidable.

And the say monopolies are bad things!

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Happy

So, I have a question

Will they purge all the forums and your postings if you were to put up entries in every forum about this mess or would they just kill your forum-id (don't know if they require one). It would be funny to see them just purge all the forums and quit taking new entries if each of their forums were "updated".

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Coat

great PR BT

those of us on bt forums tried in vain to get some basic answers from BT regarding phorm, both in public via the forums and in private via E-Mail

total silence

i personally got banned, due to asking where my previous post had gone (breaking the 'dont query mod decisions' rule), before i recieved the email to say my post had been deleted due to breaking the rule of discussing another isp (ZEN)

i have since emailed the moderators twice querying the ban etc, guess what total silence, not even a curtesy reply to say "mod decission final" etc

very heavy handed is all i can say, out of what appears to be desperation to try and contain critisism of the whole webwise issue

but all it has done is move the debate out into many sites like this , nodpi, ispreview etc which many more will read and cause BT far more damaging publicity (nice own goal BT PR Dept)

much of this would have been headed off, if as phorms PIA and the ICO said about connecting and holding dialogue with the customers

bottom line is bt needs to get its head out of the sand (or other places) and talk to it's customers, and not via some vague poll which is rigged and bt not willing to publish saying everyone wants webwise

come on BT step up to the plate and talk to people

WE DARE YOU

peter white

mine the one with the mac code in the pocket as soon as i can break my contract due to material change clause, will NEVER USE BT AGAIN

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Oooops!

He said the fact that BT had chosen not only to close the threads but delete them entirely was insignificant. "It doesn't matter either way because the people who are following this will have the threads backed up in multiple copies"

I hope that includes the EU. I know Commissioner Reding's office have been taking note of the ongoing (one-way) discussions there.

Another own-goal from this ridiculously mis-managed ex global telco.

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Law
Boffin

@ simon

As I feared! :) Thanks.

I will start researching ISP that won't be jumping into bed with Phorm... as good as sky bb has been for me so far, I think I remember their name showing up on a list of adopters when all this blew up 6 months ago.

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@ Law and @ Simon C (about avoiding BT)

"I'm about to move into a new house... I'm with Sky Broadband at the minute and want to continue with them, but I will need to pay BT to install a new line as the new place is brand new... do I have a choice of paying somebody else??"

You can phone The Post Office. They offer the possibility of installation of a new phone line to use their service, however their phone service doesn't have a 12 month minimum contract period. They also charge £110 for a new line, as opposed to BT's £126.99 (IIRC), and if you get a line with BT then you're tied to BT for 12 months. Have a look on the Post Office website for home phone (though you need to phone them as they can't take a new line order over the 'net).

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Stop

Re:Will we have to start setting fire to exchanges?

Don't be a dick all your life.

I've said it so many times, if you don't like Phorm once your contract is up with BT or anyone else who servers adverts without you being advised or given an opt in/out then stop doing business with them its simple. The whole point of this is to generate revenue so for every targetted ad they gain from, they lose a customer, no customers no Frickin use for adverts anywhere is there.

It really is that easy if you think about it.

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Go

Don't stop complaining

Don't stop the complaints. Write to your MP and MEP (Member of European Parliament):

http://www.writetothem.com/

Complain to the ICO using this form:

https://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/contact_us.aspx

Complain to BT using this form:

http://bt.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/bt.cfg/php/enduser/cci/bt_afdpage.php?cat_lvl1=770&p_cv=1.770&p_cats=770

Complain to Ofcom about BT's poor customer service, snooping, and trying to bind you to an 18-month contract when it has been materially changed:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/internet/

Remember, you can cancel your contract if the contract is a material change and is detrimental to you. See: http://beta.bt.com/bta/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=7116&tstart=0

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Anonymous Coward

Same Boat as AA

"In two months my broadband contract is over and I am not going to renew it, purely because of the Phorm/Webwise issue. And no offers of "loyal customer" discounts or free digital TV boxes are going to change my mind."

I'm in exactly the same position. Except, I'm not waiting that long. Tomorrow I am going to call them up, tell them I am cancelling and ask them how much I owe the fucking dirty cunts, write a cheque for the balance and move on.

Add to this the total shit I have had to put up with from these arseholes making unsolicited sales calls to a TPS AND ex-directory number (MINE) over the past month is beyond telling (apparently they can just ignore that), and has also contributed to my decision to pull the plug by cancelling the direct debit. That got their attention. Apparently they "can't send me a bill on paper and have me pay by cheque".

Fucking idiots.

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Flame

Oh ... Forgot to add

Their broadband service is fucking shit, slow and keeps requiring me to reboot the router up to four times a day.

How they can actually extort money for this level of service is beyond my ken.

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Can't stand he heat...

...get a new ISP. Simple. Why stay there and moan about it when you can just go to a better ISP?

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Coat

The BT Gulag

The problem that BT got into with the forum threads was that they deliberately restricted threads, and, by way of a sweetener, they created a limited number of threads (eventually one) in which they invited questions about Webwise.

Since Webwise had not been implemented, all the questions were about how it was going to work, and the only people who could answer those questions were BT.

BT did not answer the questions. (And they steadfastly did not answer the questions about when they would answer the questions.)

Furthermore, since the people who were asking questions were the ones who knew about Phorm and were therefore convinced that it was a thoroughly bad idea, all of the questions were hostile.

As BT did not answer the questions, the questions became progressively more hostile.

BT had two ways out: they could have made the honest admission that spying on their customers was a bad idea. Instead, they took the Stalinist approach.

Mine's the MAC.

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