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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Coat

Just for Giggles

... So if they want to target us behind our backs looking to capitalize on our words and intentions, I say "Good Phorm" ...

(Kiddie Porn, Bondage, Doggie Snuffing) ... Look for keywords (KY Jelly, lubricants) in anything we write (kiddie porn, teens, nubile) or read (underage, boy butts) ...and make your own decisions about what we're interested in (Paris Hilton, night-vision, porn, pornography, Phuck-faced assholes).

The next thing you know (porn, pornography, dildo), we'll all be getting targeted ads (porn, dildos, doggie bondage, cat bondage, animal bondage) based upon the comments of posters ...

The dumbest thing about this whole thing is not the invasion of privacy, but has everything to do with the "Just what do they intend to learn?".

Hell, if you can figure me out, please outline it for me and send it to me in a PDF. I doubt sincerly that anyone's going to have a clue of what I'm going to buy based upon what I see/read on the screen.

Just to mess with 'em: Here's more keywords for the Phormtastic Algorythm to classify -- BadPhorm.com Beckam's Tits are fake (but uber-nice), dildo ranch dressing, hamster bondage ....

Let 'em read this and figure it out ...

... Hell, I was actually shopping for a compute server, but a few more SELF-LUBRICATING DILDO BLOW-UP BOY TOY ads might make me chuckle a bit in the process.

0
0
Pirate

RE : What is the stance of OFCOM? anyone heard?

Yes, it is this :

[begin quote]

Steve

Thank you for your email regarding Phorm and their targeted marketing product. Phorm did approach Ofcom to take us through their plans. We are grateful to them for briefing us, but we did not endorse their plans - this is something we don’t do generally. We did however tell them that they should include the Information Commissioner in their briefings as the ICO is the primary regulator under the Privacy Regulations.

Kind regards

Sara Meyer

Director Secretariat Services

Co-ordinator FOIA and DPA Compliance

[end quote]

So basically their stance was "We won't endorse it, and we think you need to talk to ICO about it."

Surprisingly enough, this is at some variance with the statements made by Phorm, and with those made in the Charles Stanley paper that we weren't supposed to see.

0
0
Black Helicopters

A Dawning Realisation.

that the Government's reluctance to do anything about Phorm and BT's obvious illegal activities is more than mere apathy on their part

0
0

Re the AGM

According to Phorm's IR page, the AGM is in "Spring 2008". Their last was on 26th April 2007. I noticed a couple of months ago that they hadn't set an explicit date, and thought it a bit weird given that they were the first public company I'd seen. With only one month of Spring remaining and only one day before the date the last one was held, it's unforgivable that they can't be bothered with this basic bit of public company responsibility.

Personally I wouldn't bother paying the £15 (plus processing). They already know what we think of them and owning 1 share gives you no influence whatsoever.

(Technically it's not paying £15 just to attend the AGM because you can sell the share afterwards, but the fact is that this company's one, single product is illegal in the UK and what it's doing has already been done in the US, despite their lies to the contrary. No product, no profit, no value. The stock could collapse at any moment, so if you do buy a share, best to think of it as £15 you won't see ever again. If after the AGM you manage to flog it for £5 and £10, well, you'll be pleasantly surprised.)

0
0
Paris Hilton

Duckin' and Weavin'

Every time I hear something from Phorm's side of things I just get more and more pi55ed off. They claim that the home office advice means that their "service" is legal, HO says that it's probably legal (if consent is obtained, which it wasn't for the trials), what the hell kind of advice is that? It might be legal, it might not? Either way, both the HO and Phorm say we should drop the legality issue, even though the the HO's and phorm's interpretation of the "advice" differs dramtically, at the very least no consent was obtained for the trial so even by the HO's (admittedly weak a55) poistion, both bt and phorm have done something wrong and need to be investigated further, and I mean properly investigated, not just given a tour of phorms offices, shown a computer and told "that's where our software goes, it isn't bad. What, no of course you can't look at it, don't you trust us? Why would we lie to you? Here, let me take you to a lapdancing bar, on me". The tinfoil hat part of me thinks that the uk.gov knew all along what phorm were planning on, and hoped that it would be implemented without being noticed.

And another thing, whenever I hear someone describe their business as a "legitimate" business, I immediately think that it isn't. If you saw a 2nd hand car dealership called "honest" K(u)nt's quality motors, you wouldn't go there would you? What was the Mafia club in the Simpsons called?

Paris, coz not even she could swallow all these whoppers

0
0
Thumb Down

My websites do not consent

What a spineless and incompetent government and regulator we have.

I have just added a statement to the privacy policies on my websites (www.tiespecialist.com and www.artspecialist.co.uk) saying that we explicitly do not consent to third party tracking cookies or Phorm. That should ensure that their service is illegal if any of the 20,000 people a month who visit my sites are BT customers.

0
0
Flame

hhmmmm... smells like something.

I like the fact the police have passed the book, wtf????? something illegal isn't being investigated. I find that hard to believe... 0h wait this is the UK and our police forces are a joke.

And Phorm's statement basically says how dare someone who reviews the law comment on the law, instead they should be concentrating on how this technology benefits people or furthers technology.

WHAT????

I checked the Early day motion in parliament and sad as it seems my local MP isn't on the list of signees. I will be writing to her.... 36 of over 600 is pretty bad, considering how many signed to ackowledge how good bruce forsyth is. (Which she signed)

Parliament is a joke at times, the priorities are slightly askew...

@3x2...

Parasite... Virus? Oh go on, tell us the answer. You can't mean a symbiotic organism as that gives benefits to both parties. :)

@David Willis

Don't forget that you also took the details of where he shops and how he paid.

Then write it all down and let someone else have a copy to store for safety. Probably in another country, and looked after by foreigners.

Then pass that information to any future shops that might be interested so that the next time he goes shopping people can intercept his course and offer similar shops and services. Unsolicited of course.

Sounds more like it then.

0
0

Silliness

Can the rampant crazies please stop the nonsense about "The government want Phorm so they can spy on us", believe me, if the government want to spy on you they don't need Phorm and never will, so stop being so bloody stupid.

Secondly, Kent (my vowels almost get mixed up every time I utter that name). My personal experience with him after attending a recording session for BBC "Click" with him is that he behaves like a spoilt child. He was rude to the BBC (turned up 30 minutes late and then refused to answer their questions with anything other than his usual rubbish about "Google is evil blah blah blah" irrespective of the question being asked) and he was way beyond rude to me resorting to personal attacks and insults.

It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he has now made a personal attack on FIPR as the man simply has no class. I would be worried too if my share price had dropped over 60% in 2 months and government advisory groups were calling my business model illegal.

Incidentally, you can see the BBC "Click" episode on 3rd/4th May at 11:30am on BBC News 24.

Alexander Hanff

0
0
Pirate

re the charles stanley article

one thing that seems to have been missed is the bit about options for the isp to get users to buy into this

discounts OR giving better speeds???

that shows the writer has no understanding of broadband etc as everyone quotes "upto 8mb" and the lines are usually running as fast as possible given the contention ratio and amount of traffic for times of day.

or is he suggesting packet shaping / throttling normal traffic for users who opt out, i would like to see user reaction to that one .

they think this is a backlash try tell joe public he is getting a poorer service because he does not agree to the isp flogging his preferences for no benifit to them

also the anti phishing filter is of no use to most users as they already

also as i have said in other forums what good is profiling and targeting adverts if you miss the most important bit of the profile (location?) it means you miss out on local adverts and get car ads for scottish dealers instead of your local one two miles down the road, so you still get generic adverts (unless they are scraping form pages for your address / postcode)

0
0

amfm sponsorship and firefox plugin

Why don't we all dig deep and sponsor aManFromMars to buy lots of domains and write nice big long sections of prose (I use the noun loosely) to put on them. Then we could author a ff plugin to read his stuff back. The phorm profilers would likely collapse in a smoking heap.

0
0
Jon
Unhappy

They should go to jail

> 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...

No way should they get off that lightly. The people involved broke the law. You think YOU would get away with a fine of a few day's pay if you tapped a phone line?

I want the senior management involved to go to jail. I've got more sympathy for the techies - they were just following orders, so they should get community service.

Maybe that way other people will think twice before doing something so stupid.

0
0
Thumb Down

No!

We hereby, formally refuse permission for Phorm, its partners, customers and users, to intercept, modify or profile in any way, the current sentence.

0
0
Black Helicopters

Re: Silliness

Oh, I'm quite sure HMG can spy on us without Phorm. But look how much easier and cheaper it will be *with* Phorm.

The question still needs to be answered, though. Given that Phorm *is* illegal, and there can be little doubt of that, *why* won't the Gov't, Police, ICO or Ofcom *do* anything about it. Why are they defending Phorm?

The longer the 'authorities' dither about Phorm and the longer they refuse to act on BT's illegal interception, the more such conspiracy theories will gain ground.

Actually this isn't such a bad thing (true or not). People may be apathetic towards an online ad system that protects them from Phishermen, but if they start seeing Big Brother behind it....................

0
0
Stop

Re: My websites do not consent

Fair enough - except I spy Google Analytics on your site.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Keep it up Kent - Phorm is so ratttled

I love it when Kent shows of his class (or lack of it). You have been found out fair and square and the longer you carry on this charade of legality the more you will suffer.

Show us the names of the people who in the eyes of UK law can claim this system has a shred of legality (ALL of it preferably). As far I can see you were using the poorly worded initial Home office response as your legality claim and you interpreted this original statement to hide behind.

Now they have back-peddled somewhat, their political recent statement which denied the legal backing (bit of a cop out ) what have you got left to claim?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Advertising

Shouldn't we start putting the pressure on the companies that are advertising with Phorm?

Put the word out to boycott these companies until they cancel their deal with Phorm.

Without advertisements, Phorm is stuffed.

0
0
Stop

Re: Silliness

No-one is denying the Government already has the ability to spy on us. The question is do they already have this level of active, rather than passive, interception.

I have nothing to hide - but being uneasy about such technology getting into the wrong hands does not make someone crazy, it makes them sensible. The fact that a company of questionable morals already has control of it is, quite frankly, the really scary bit.

0
0
Dan

from paragraph one

of the Interesting Read pdf:

"by exploiting the behavioural data".

They even describe it themselves as an exploit. Surely this says it all?

0
0
Black Helicopters

Er...?

"BT representatives maintained the party line that no personally identifiable information was shared"... If that is the case how do they know I'm me to target the ads at?

I also have issue with the statement from PHORM, that last bit, "help people make valid informed choices". What choice were the people in the secret trial given?

If someone signs up to this sort of ad targeting then that's OK for them, however ISPs will just change their T&Cs to include consent then we'll be stuck with it even if we don't want it.

0
0

Jail, isn't that for crooks ?

At the end of the day, nobody cares. The internet is so full of crap that loads of people just read their email and ebay and then turn the pc off.

Everything is advertsing, or using your own pc to find out what you buy. As for laws: wake up. The gov spends most of its time breaking laws, and many of those lead to hundreds being killed....why bother about a bit of advertising ?

Home office ? (gov joke shop)

Police (as per above)

Ofcom (spelt O£COM)

All the above are not salvation FROM the problem, they ARE the problem.

Ineffective, inefficient and basically morally corrupt.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Silliness

I doubt that the government/hmrc would use phorm to spy on the populace, they may use it to detect trends mind, however they can use it as a precedent.

If the population are willing and used to being spied on to sell them goods and services why would they resist later moves to spy on them for their own protection? The precedent is already there a few changes on a few sheets of paper and there you have it. Once people are used to being watched for one thing they'll happily accept being watched for another more important thing (protect children and prevent terrorism - the cry to war for the police state crowd and of course it all makes a kind of sense, what need is there for privacy anyway? Unless you're a criminal.)

Just look at the pornography and violence sliding envelope, start off trying to pass law against violent pornography citing that it causes violent acts, then trying to get rid of animation and drawings of lolicon claiming that it's as bad as cp, then using the same rationel (that watching X makes you more likely to do X) to restrict other forms of violent media. None succesfully so far but give it time.

Once you plant a negative/oppresive idea it's easy for it took take root, grow and spred.

It's always easier to take the negative argument then the positive one.

0
0
Paris Hilton

How big is an advert?

I've noticed Grotmail is now taking almost a minute to download some of my mail - and why? Because there are whizzo Virgin Media flash animations playing away down the right side of my screen.

I do NOT want to switch to Virgin Media.

I do NOT want to wait minutes for a simple three line email to open up.

What I DO want is to know how big these ads, and all the other cra^H^H^H ads that get displayed on the websites I visit are.

Why?

My ISP has a download policy that says I can upload/download so much data "free" a month, within the cost of my service. But if that now includes a few dozen ads per site I visit, that my allowance now looks a little less healthy...

So if my ISP (TalkTalk/Carphone Warehouse) *does* implementPhorm and start targetting ads at me, do I get more transfer allowance since they are now getting more revenue from me (me paying for the service, and the advertisers/Phorm paying them for my data - which, coincidentally, I do NOT authorise them to share with Phorm or any other third-party Profiler!)

Paris, since I'd rather enjoy her "attention" than Phorms'...

0
0

Re: Silliness

You seem to be forgetting one important fact here. The UK are already the 4th most monitored country int he world. They are doing a fine job in building a surveillance society they have no need of Phorm.

Source: http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-559597

0
0
Alert

Since when...

was any "debate about the legality of a legitimate e-commerce business" 'frivilous?

Dear Phorm.

The VAST MAJORITY of the people involved in this debate about the "legality of a legitimate e-commerce business", YOUR e-commerce business (built on the back of spyware, allegedly), are DEADLY SERIOUS!

WE

DO

NOT

WANT

YOUR

INTRUSIVE

INVASIVE

'SERVICE'

HAVE YOU GOT THAT (YET) KENT?

0
0
Stop

re: Since when

Nooo you are wrong. Kent says "everyone wants this" surely he is right?

0
0

Re: Just for Giggles

It should be noted that Phorm say that they will not include porn in their profiling.

I believe them.

It should also be noted - and emphasised over and over again when this business comes to court - that the profiling is done in software.

So whilst I believe Phorm now in this respect, I also know that their software can be updated, and that in future they will come under commercial pressure to make more money by looking for opportunities to expand their profiling. Because it is software, they can adapt it to scruitinising anything they wish.

For me, the big issue with Phorm is that it is the thin end of a wedge. I do not want to have to wait for the abuse to happen before a legal challenge is mounted, I want the potential for abuse to be prevented.

0
0
IT Angle

Question (on the silliness subject)

The government have the power under RIPA to intercept your data in certain circumstances, why is this any easier with Phorm?

Is an ISP not already technically capable of providing authorities with a 'wiretap' to your datastream?

0
0
Thumb Up

@advertising

i had a advertising company email the the other day about space and it was one i recognised as being on the phorm client list,

they seemed suprised when i said i do not deal with a company using OIX / phorm even if the ad they wanted me to place was in a mag

they said they had not heard of phorm or OIX so i told them to google it. they emailed back and said they were reading with interest the debate and were shocked

i think badphorm have a list of advertisers known to be signed up to OIX

more need to take a stand like i did, if you can't kill the beast by direct attack , starve it out by cutting of it's supply of money.

no OIX adverts = no money = no phorm

0
0
Black Helicopters

Re:Re:Silliness

***"You seem to be forgetting one important fact here. The UK are already the 4th most monitored country int he world. They are doing a fine job in building a surveillance society they have no need of Phorm."***

Oh yes, they love keeping an eye on us. And they won't look a surveillance gift-horse in the mouth. While they have no *need* for Phorm, they may still *want* Phorm.

Indeed, the fact that they have so many ways of watching us already indicates their paranoid mindset, and means, IMHO, they are *more* likely to welcome Phorm as another surveillance tool.

Particularly as it would be at little or no cost to them (apart from turning the odd blind eye to certain issues regarding Phorm's legality). Don't, for one minute, think that Ertugrul hasn't realised the 'law enforcement' uses of the Phorm system and 'marketed' them accordingly.

0
0
Alien

corporate espionage

This is clearly an effort using potential business benefits to justify spying on individuals. Hence, the classic crack dealer tactics of giving away a free taste to satisfy those down the chain. The DataProtectionAct must be enforced, and if the privatized telcom(run by a eurocrap) can bugger off, coz matters of national importance are not for sale.

0
0
Black Helicopters

Re:Question (on the silliness subject)

***"Is an ISP not already technically capable of providing authorities with a 'wiretap' to your datastream?"***

Indeed they are.

But, at the moment (IIRC), they only 'tap' particular addresses based on pre-formed suspicions.

Phorm would allow them to simultaneously watch all http traffic on an *entire* ISP for suspicious words and phrases. I'll leave you to work out the implications of that.

0
0

Re:Re:Re:Silliness

And Kent thought I was paranoid?

0
0
IT Angle

@Alex

It isn't necessarily any easier with Phorm, but at the moment the powers that be require a reason to do so, under RIPA. With Phorm it becomes the rule rather than the exception - everything is monitored all the time (even if 'opted out').

Also, the way Phorm actively intercepts your traffic it is possible for them (or anybody with access) to modify and/or even block traffic - not possible with most 'passive' types of monitoring.

0
0
Happy

re:re:re:re:re:silliness

wheres john cleese and a re-written parrot sketch when you need him

or the spam sketch re-written, mine the phorm,phorm,phorm, chips,phorm and phorm please

this stuff is just ripe for monty python

said if it was not so serious

oh, and don't forget ministry of silly walk re-written to be ministry of spineless gits

:P

0
0
Alert

Interception may be justified....but

There are many instances where interception may be justified - serious crime prevention, anti-terrorism, child abuse, etc. where right-thinking people may be prepared to compromise their right to privacy for the sake of the public good. The only thing really jeopardising this at the moment is that people no longer trust this government, or indeed the police, not to abuse the law for trivial ends, or to cover up their incompetence, corruption, or for their own political ends.

However, right thinking people will not accept their privacy being compromised for the enrichment of an ailing ISP and/or a bunch of Russian spyware scumbags.

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

re: Paranoia

Whilst I'll admit there is the *possibility* that uk.gov would be keen to piggy-back onto such a service, I'm with Alexander on this one - it is highly unlikely.

Not because they lack the will to do so, more like the wit :) Gov IT project anyone? I bet our Gov can overspend on a project even if it isn't them paying for it!

0
0
Joke

Re:Re:Re:Re:Silliness

Just because you aren't paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you ;-)

0
0
Black Helicopters

Hidden Agenda by the Home Office

The government want this in ISPs. Once the infrastructure is in place they can demand that you allow them access to it in cases of 'national security'.

The fact that it is commercially driven means that they will not have to foot the bill to have the equipment installed and maintained at each ISP. ISPs have the benefit of deriving income from Phorm which makes it attractive (in theory).

Now that there has been a backlash the Home Office has been caught with it's pants down over willfully giving out bad advice to hasten the adoption of morally unsound and illegal systems.

0
0
Coat

Stopping phorm

Just an idea, I have used the contacts page of the phorm website to give the following notice.

I guess that ensures that they have had notice but they will have a problem sorting out which machines and websites I own or use??

'Please take note.

I refuse permission for the interception of any of my communications to be intercepted by any person or company.

Should you, in conjunction with any person or company, interecept communications to or from any equipment that I use or any website that I own then I shall prosecute you in any way possible for any criminal offences that are commited and in order to recover civil dammages from you and your associates.'

BT next!

0
0

My answer (so far)

OK, so if I understand you rightly that Phorm doesn't necessarily make wiretapping any easier but rather the issue is with how it re-frames the rules for wiretapping, then I'd have to agree with Alexander.

I don't see how it follows that because authorities can monitor data passing through Phorm instead of through the ISP then they will no longer require a reason to tap.

As for the capability to modify/block traffic, I'm not so sure. Can you give me a plausible scenario where the goverment (or whoever) might interfere with traffic in this way rather than, say, simply blocking the IPs of websites they don't want people looking at?

I expect it goes without saying but just in case: I'm no kind of Phorm sympathiser, but I don't think it's productive to chase our tails over what might be unwarranted suspicion (in this case) towards The Man.

0
0
Coat

could the hidden agenda be at no.10???

just think elections coming up, what an opertunity to get advertising for labour right into your home on the screen of your computer a lot cheaper then those expensive roadside hoardings, and they can target tory voters even more :P

perhaps thats why they wanted to rush it in so it was ready for the may 1st elections, hoping there asre would not be as badly kicked as it looks likely to be

:P :P :P

mines the coats as i can just see g.brown whiping out his government procurement card to pay for the advert

:P

0
0
Ash
Stop

User Agent

Set it to:

PHORM: PERMISSION DENIED TO INTERCEPT AND PROFILE.

Sorted.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re Silliness/Paranoia

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/25/justice_bill_extreme_pron/

Most of us will soon officially be criminals. Learn to live with it.

0
0
Boffin

Roll on the encrypted Internet

Hopefully the advent of phorm and the other deep packet inspection merchants will stimulate more and more use of SSL web pages and encrypted email. The technology has been around for ages, the hardware now has the horsepower, all that is needed is the final push. And then where will the phorm/Webwise/OIX business model be?

0
0
Boffin

@ Peter W - not cheap

Point of pedantry - the OIX business model is to charge MORE per click for each ad - based on the assertion that 'target' ads are more effective. (Yes marketing people believe that stuff!!)

0
0

Re: User Agent

That would actually work! The Phorm/Webwise system currently uses a whitelist of user agent strings. (At least that's what we've been told... for now...)

However it would cause you problems as some websites (google included) alter there content based on user agent strings. You might well end up with the "mobile version".

0
0

Re: Re: User Agent

"However it would cause you problems as some websites (google included) alter there content based on user agent strings. You might well end up with the "mobile version"."

Very true. I currently have mine set to :

User-Agent : Kent Ertugrul of Phorm is a massive spunk bubble

At the suggestion of someone in these very comments, and I've seen quite a bit of odd behaviour. Standards, doncha just love em ?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Principle must be worth a few £ a month surely ?

If everyone is determined to protest then why not leave BT and join another ISP and let BT know why you are leaving. I have done that already. They will soon get the hint if people leave them en masse. Or Phone the BT Chairmans office on

0207 356 5000 and let them know (ask to speak to Chairman).

0
0
Paris Hilton

I feel sorry for Kent, Elephants never forget

A couple of Months ago Kent was probably riding high, thinking how much more money he could soon be making compared to his old company 121 Media (which made a lot of money allegedly, from nasty spyware) he renamed as Phorm.

I too had that same high-five feeling when my PC was ticking along nicely until one day I accidentally installed some scum-ware, the root of which, allegedly , came from 121 Media. After reformatting my PC to get rid of the nasties that prevailed and all the inconvenience that resulted, I was feeling pretty despondent, fed up and down.

Kent I sympathise with you. Life a bitch isn't it?

Paris, because she could be wiping a crocodile tear!

0
0

Hypocrits

[quote]Internet users would be better served if FIPR focused on the benefits of the online technologies available today rather than undermine the online privacy debate and block technological progress. That would help people to make valid informed choices about the services they want to use.[/quote]

Hmm, valid informed choices. Just like all those people in the illegal bt/phorm trial got to make valid informed choices last year. Oh no, wait...

I hate this company more by the day. Wish I had the resources and know how to actually make a legal challenge.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017