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

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

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  1. Kieron McCann
    Black Helicopters

    Oh yeah, how does it go...

    ...if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide....

    The reluctance of UK Gov to disclose their response smells fishier and fishier. I'm wagering £100 right here that the home office has stitched up a secret deal with BT to arrange a back door in to Phorm so that they can snoop on whoever they like. Any takers? Prove me wrong.

    God I hate the new icons

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Human Nature Being what IT is, Get Real....

    "In July the Commissioner said: "It is very clear in EU directives that unless someone specifically gives authorization [to track consumer activity on the Web] then you don't have the right to do that."" .......Having the Ability Requires that the Right be Exercised and Free Choice given on Field Findings in Service...... which whenever you read Phorm Caveats and Provisions are Equitably Disposed to Denial of Service Provision although certainly with no Guarantee against Random Collection for Comparitive Testing. IT is as well to Accept that there is no Valid Reason or Excuse to Justify No Go Areas in CyberSpace and TeleCommunications Transfers/Loded Trails.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Government fact-ignoring mission

    Write it down! Then ignore it!

  4. Ash

    Opt in / out

    That's grand, but will my data COME CLOSE to Phorm hardware / software if I opt out?

    If it's the whole "Tracking cookie which will be deleted every time you close your browser, Mr Security Conscious Person." style of opting out, then it's all rubbish.

    Said it before, say it again; Do not want, will leave if it's brought in.

  5. Blasmeme
    Joke

    AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

    This is crap. This response is a joke. The undisclosed text no doubt contains the part about how this technology is vital to the UK's war on terror......or that there was no text but a very large cashiers check.

    Most likely not but it's pretty clear that the only folk who take this seriously are us. I was talking to a friend of mine who works in the games industry on the network side of MMOs: he didn't have a clue what I was talking about. No one does. No one cares. As long as they get their email, BBC iPlayer, euro millions results and loads of porn I doubt most net users have any interest will even know what' happening. I'm still hopeful though. We'll see what the Euro Commission has to say in their reply.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how does this work then?

    "We believe it's important to have an open and frank discussion... it's not normal practice to disclose [such letters],"

    How can it be open and frank if you don't disclose the letters?

    I think it's time for a freedom of information request.

    Need a CCTV/Big Brother icon for this.

    They are watching you.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    MP response

    Gah! I know that the response from my MP regarding the whole EC thing will just contain that fob-off from the article, and then I'll write ANOTHER letter in response to that, which will take another 2 months to get replied to...

    Still, mustn't give up. Every single letter written has the potential to be the one that makes a difference.

    Anyone brought Private Eye's attention to this? It's the type of story they'd like for their "In the back" section. Email on its way to them in a few minutes.

  8. Tony W

    As usual

    they have missed the point. It's not just what Phorm, or anyone else, does with the data. It's whether the data leaves the control of your ISP (who, wisely or not, you have decided to trust) and gets into equipment belonging to a third party. Whatever promises people make, it is fundamental to privacy that data should go no further than it has to.

    I get the impression that the government is bending over backwards to avoid examining Phorm too closely. It seems to be in line with the New Labour habit of going weak-kneed whenever they come into contact with the big and powerful.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    See through this yet?

    So is that 'transparent' as in everyone knows what is going on, or 'transparent' as in no-one can see what is going on?

  10. Bobby
    Dead Vulture

    In bed together.

    Looks pretty clear from what I've read the Uk government and this proven spyware company are in bed together on this and we're about to be targets for both of them.

    God help us all...

  11. Secretgeek
    Thumb Up

    In the main...

    ..I agree with everyones comments here. My suggestion would be to get to the WhatDoTheyKnow.com website and start submitting your FOI requests to central Gov through them. That way we can all see just how evasive they get!

    I'm not affiliated with the site but I do work in FOIA and DPA.

    Oh and 'word' to the Reg for keeping on top of this story.

  12. Ian

    Goodbye BT

    They phoned me up last week, ignoring the TPS, to ask me if I wanted to re-sign my contract at a two quid per month discount. I declined, citing the impending Phorm roll-out (had I been smart I'd also have complained that the much bruited Webwise phishing protection hadn't been delivered, but that might have been a bit too subtle). They said `OK' and moved on to the next mark.

  13. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I just love the...

    ...commitments to diversity, the environment and a better society.

    They only missed out showing a picture of a cuddly kitten in the arms of....you guessed it!!

  14. jonathan keith

    FOIA

    Are the Register terriers going to be following this up with a Freedom Of Information request? I certainly hope so, considering the contempt with which our elected representatives are treating us.

    Where's my "Mendacious fucking bastards" icon?

  15. James Pickett

    Phail

    "the government believes future Phorm deployments could be legal"

    They keep saying that, but it's not the *future* activity that's under discussion - it's the past, illegal, deployments we'd like some action on!

    We need someone to snoop on them without permission...

  16. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: FOIA

    The FOI request is in.

    - Chris Williams

  17. dephormation.org.uk
    Thumb Down

    Is this the end of unencrypted data comms in the UK?

    So the UK Government are stripping web site creators/electronic commerce business/online publishers of the right to privacy, security, and integrity in their unencrypted data communications.

    Never mind the rights of copyright owners in the UK and abroad.

    If you're with BT its time to get a MAC code. If your business uses BT to host web applications its time to find a new hosting service provider. And if you run a web site, time to consider blocking BT IP address ranges, or charging a premium to BT customers, or invoicing BT for copyright royalties. If you send data to or within the UK, consider encrypting those communications because BT cannot be trusted to carry that data.

    This Government has lost its mind.

    This is perhaps the beginning of the end for all unencrypted communication in the UK. And why? Marketing and advertising idiots dictating the design of a communication network, and a deranged misguided corrupt Government.

  18. dephormation.org.uk
    Thumb Down

    Is this th

    So the UK Government are stripping web site creators/electronic commerce business/online publishers of the right to privacy, security, and integrity in their unencrypted data communications.

    Never mind the rights of copyright owners in the UK and abroad.

    If you're with BT its time to get a MAC code. If your business uses BT to host web applications its time to find a new hosting service provider. And if you run a web site, time to consider blocking BT IP address ranges, or charging a premium to BT customers, or invoicing BT for copyright royalties. If you send data to or within the UK, consider encrypting those communications because BT cannot be trusted to carry that data.

    This Government has lost its mind.

    This is perhaps the beginning of the end for all unencrypted communication in the UK. And why? Marketing and advertising idiots dictating the design of a communication network, and a deranged misguided corrupt Government.

  19. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    WTF!

    Lets face it. Phorm is a pathetic '2 bit' spyware operation. They are less than nothing. Why is an organisation like BT bothering to deal with these losers and why is the UK Gov't bothering to defend them. Why not come right out and say Phorm is illegal (which it blatantly is) and be done with it?

    The Black Helicopter icon is the obvious answer to the above questions.

  20. jonathan keith
    Thumb Up

    @ Chris Williams Re: FOIA

    Good man.

    I believe the obligation to respond is "... promptly, and at most within 20 working days". Let's see what they have to say.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Phorm does not provide anonymity

    "Phorm does not have nor want information which would enable it to link a user ID and profile to a living individual."

    This is a mis-leading statement and does not tell the whole story.

    Any company that has a website that displays Phorm's ads (OIX) and who also keep a record of user's names (e.g. any site that requires any kind of registration) will be able to link Phorm IDs to real people simply by using one single HTTPS-enabled page.

    Using HTTPS prevents the Phorm cookie being stripped from a user's web-requests, thus the website owner can see your Phorm ID and so suddenly you're not so anonymous as Phorm badly wants you to believe you are.

  22. RW
    Pirate

    The failure of spin

    All the marketing droids amd spin doctors may as well go join the homeless bankers under their bridges. Don't they realize that this kind of fluffy-bunny, empty, hand waving, devoid-of-meaning prose merely arouses suspicion? If, that is, it doesn't confirm previously held suspicion?

    Your very failure to address the core issues says your employer (HM Gov) are hiding something they're ashamed of.

    They used to say there were lies, damned lies, and statistics. Now we can say there are lies, damned lies, statistics, and spin.

    Didn't work guys!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Curious timing...

    Lots of other news about this week isn't there, with financial institutions going titsup all over the shop, and the wheel's slowly being pulled off Mr Brown's premiership... "a good day to bury bad news"?

    There was a time when I'd have thought my comment above to be bordering on paranoia but I've lost all faith in our elected officials over this ongoing saga - it should be straightforward enough - BT appears to have clearly broken the law with the trials, so should be prosecuted, and the proposed system seems at odds with RIPA, so should be denounced as such.

    As one who's previously been Eurosceptic, I find the EU's line to be somewhat re-assuring, as is the interest taken by our non-democratic Lords....

    Time to get the pen and paper out and write to my MP, BERR, and Ms Redding again. I'll wager only one of them gives me an answer that's not full of crap.

    I might also write a letter to BT's data controller and CEO explaining that I host a small website behind an opendns url and I don't want it profiling under any circumstances, but that their customers are free to view the content for non-commercial purposes. And ask how their technology plans to afford me my statutory rights under RIPA. I won't be expecting that answered either mind you...

  24. Tim Spence

    Why do they bother?

    There is nothing they could ever say which would make me feel easy about "using" Phorm now, let alone feel that it provided me with any benefit.

  25. Gulfie
    Black Helicopters

    Whitewash

    It will be interesting to hear how the EU respond to this large pail of whitewash that the government has deployed.

    I mean, we expect politicians to sidestep the public asking such questions, but if the privacy and legal questions have not been answered (and lets face it, EU law appears to indicate that Phorm are up the creek on this one) then the explosion is likely to be most visible and entertaining.

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

  26. Thomas Silver badge

    a "unique 'privacy by design' approach"

    Phorm's defence is that it's okay to collect information from you using an illegal wiretap if they respect your privacy later on? That truly is a unique approach to 'privacy by design'.

  27. Steve Foster

    @Goodbye BT

    The TPS doesn't apply when there's an existing business relationship, so BT are free to call you as often as they like (within reason) to try and get you to do more business with them.

    The TPS (and MPS) *should* stop you receiving unsolicited communications from organisations you don't do business with.

  28. Mike Bird
    Alert

    PR ...

    In response to the PR Agency posting at the bottom of the article.

    The UK user population's position on Phorm's technology reflects our widespread requirement to allow transparency in corporate and govennment systems that wish to make use of personal data.

    We believe that it is a mandatory requirement that all data harvesting to be OPT-IN not OPT-OUT. We further believe that any system that does permit OPT-IN should permit later OPT-OUT with a full retroactive removal of all data held by any 3rd party.

    We will continue to engage with the Police, Government (not that they want to listen), BT (not that they care about their customers), Phorm (not that they have the slightest idea how much they are narking off people) and the EU (who seem to be actually listening - a bit) to ensure that those companies and persons who have conducted "tests" should be held fully and openly accountable in law for any breach of data protection or privacy laws.

    Our belief is that any 3rd party seeking to use any kind of data that we, as a private individual create, should seek explicit permission before making use of said data regardless of how it may pass through systems under their control.

    We will continue to engage with all parties; especially regulators and other consumers; and we are excited at demonstrating that we are not to be taken lightly in any attempt to abuse data, no matter how much other organisations think they can get away with making money out of it.

  29. Neil Baldwin

    How about opt in rather than opt out

    See subject

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    OMFGBBQ

    Whitewash.

    Hopefully the EU if contact will release the document, Chris drop Vivian a email and ask.

  31. Matt Martin

    4 magic words

    Shouldn't the content of that letter be available to anyone making a request under the freedom of information act?

    (In my wide-eyed innocence, I'm of course assuming the Government would play fair and honour such a request and not try to weasel it's way out of it)

  32. Steve
    Pirate

    They stole our information

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

  33. Sam

    transparency?

    Err, where?

    Don't these expendable talentless losers realise we know bullshit when we see it?

    Get in the queue behind the overpaid Lehman ponces to sign on, while people who actually work for a living have a good laugh.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    RE: Phorm does not provide anonymity...

    It could also result in a new kind of phishing - Phishing for Phorm UIDs by spamming BT customer email addresses - the victims wouldn't even need to enter their details into a form, just to open a link in the UID phishing email.

    By using an automatic redirect to an https page, the spammer would get sent the recipents UID cookie and could therefore link their UID to their email address which would be encoded within the URL.

  35. Jimmy

    Not only in the USA.

    BT have broken the law.

    Phorm have broken the law.

    NuLabour government is complicit in this lawbreaking activity but will shortly introduce legislation providing retrospective immunity for all parties and legal protection for any future implementations of Phorm type technology.

    Well, it worked for George Bush, didn't it?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    https => directly identifiable ? Plus... revolving doors.

    I don't understand much of this web stuff so plz excuse this question...

    I vaguely recall mention of single-pixel gifs being used to track folks on websites. If that single-pixel gif was delivered by https on a page which itself wasn't https, does that mean that the user's "privacy" (not that they ever had much) is effectively completely destroyed without them knowing???? Just wondering cluelessly, if you have a clue stick, feel free to use it.

    Have the revolving doors between BT HQ and Phorm HQ stopped spinning yet? Y'know, the one Stratis Scleparis used to get from being BT Retail Chief Techy (at the time of the denied trials) to being Phorm CTO as of a few months back?

    http://www.phorm.com/about/exec_scleparis.php

  37. Claire Rand
    Stop

    hiding

    so if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear....

    sorry this is NuUK, they must be guilty, after all a complaint has been made, don't they now have to prove they are innocent?

    surely one of the millions of cameras must have recorded the meetings?

    don't know why they don't just come out and say "you have no expectation or right to privacy" and be done with it

  38. James Pickett
    Happy

    PR bunnies

    "Phorm's PR agency Citigate Dewe Rogerson"

    Time to have a pop at them, perhaps. Suggest that they might be aiding and abetting a criminal act and see how good a rabbit impression they manage...

  39. Anonymous
    Paris Hilton

    This sounds so Fishey....

    Since the government is clearly reluctant to give a honest response,its collusion with BT cannot be ruled out. Also with BT and Virgin being de-facto equipment providers to all UK ISPs one wonders if GHCQ and phorm are also in bed together?

    Paris 'cause everyone wants to know who she gets in bed with!

  40. Dave

    Transparency?

    The Government implementation of transparency appears to work as well as that of some web browsers.

  41. michael

    EU and Lords

    "As one who's previously been Eurosceptic, I find the EU's line to be somewhat re-assuring, as is the interest taken by our non-democratic Lords...."

    when we where fighting the Viloint crime reduction bill the only suport we could find against the goverment banning gunshaped objects was in the lords all mps on the red and blue sides where parots for the party line and the yellows just did not care

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Condemned out of their own mouths.

    >"Phorm's products are capable of being operated in this fashion" [... i.e., legally ... ] "on the following basis:

    * The user profiling occurs with the knowledge and agreement of the customer."

    Well, there we have it. Given that the trials were secret and the customers had absolutely no knowledge of them whatsoever, it's an open-and-shut case; they were not operated on that basis, hence they were not legal, QED.

    Now it's just a matter of banging 'em up and throwing away the key...

  43. Chris G Silver badge

    What worrys me

    Is the first sentence of the update:- `The UK government's position on Phorm's technology reflects our common commitment to transparency and superior standards of online privacy.

    Is it just me or are they saying they want superior standards of online privacy to be transparent?

    It all sounds like masculine cow pooh to me.

    Where's the Bull shit icon?

  44. Richard
    Coat

    Que?!

    Now I may be taking a leaf out of the Bill Hicks film review book but:

    "Pile of Shit!"

    Just because HM.gov is using a great big fan to keep the flies off doesn't mean we can't recognise fecal matter by other means.

    Fabio Colasanti should refer to Paxman's book and ask them again. And again. And again. Until they answer the question (which we all know they won't but it should be fun to watch)

    I hope that FOIA request has been phrased to preclude the "that is commercially sensitive information" response that has been used all too often with regards ID cards. Now that I think of it, THAT would be quite an interesting response in and of itself. Carry on, nothing to see here...

    Mine's not personally identifiable so I have to check them all.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    WTF

    So basically they are still trying to cover BT's ass for them by making it appear legal when it was not the question is why are they covering BT liability in this case.

    What the hell I go away for few and the whole place got all slicked up I hate it

  46. Andy Livingstone

    Statement

    Sir Humphrey has managed to include enough weasel words in that statement to populate an entire Zoo.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    speechless

    Total corrpution of this government. Nu Labour - a New low.

    I`ve always avoided creating an account @ the reg to remain "Anon" coz we all know where this is going...

    g0d help us all.

  48. Dennis
    Pirate

    time for a change of government

    Considering how the our elected government have acted over the last 10 years I have to say I am not surprised in the slightest. Its all trust us we know what we are doing and time and time again they are proved wrong. Then its just a simple sorry and off to another gaff.

    Well I for one am fed up. Gordon The Clown doesn't allow 'His People' to talk about new leaders and elections well its time we asked for a new government. Chris could you get a statement from David Cameron (Tories) and try and get this item on the political agenda. They are desperate for votes ask him for a comment and publish it with the promise of a link to his weblog. If he wants to get in touch with the young intelligent people here is his opportunity to do it.

    How many more IT catastrophes do we have to endure before people wise up!!

    I cant believe I am promoting the Tories a lifetime of Labour destroyed. But what choice do we have. Labour haven't a chance of winning the next election so we need to get a statement from the Tories now before they come to power and then just casually ignore our concerns.

    Prepare for boarding the Blue express.............................

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If phorm is so good

    If phorm is so good for consumers than I suspect they can leave it off and everyone will be clamouring to opt in.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    White-out or wipe-out

    I feel like I am a penguin walking through a spin storm. Not too sure if the next chapter will be a white-out or wipe-out.

    Without copyright, what protection is still available for fledgeling e-businesses that are giving employment to so many thousands in the UK?

    The internet is so full of scams, ready to catch the unwary. Just now it looks like the government is the next set of citizens to fall for all the money making schemes that float around. Looking back over the last 10 years or so, the scams are still the same: nothing new there. The surprise is that all that is needed is for the book to be given a new cover and there is a whole new generation of internet newbies to be caught in the scam web. Even though there are pages and pages hosted on the web warning the unwary that they could be caught just as easily as me/him/her/them/us.

    And, just about every one of those scams has involved personal data being sold and used to make the scammers a profit.

    Can anyone list just one get-rich-quick system which has collected data over the internet which has not been used as part of a money making scam?

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The government's intentions are now a lot clearer

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

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

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

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Greedy grabbing scum

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

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

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vivian’s views on the tango

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

  54. Mark

    Huh?

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

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

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    I am still wondering

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

    I think we should be told

  56. Daniel Wilkie
    Black Helicopters

    Online Petition

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

  57. Gulfie
    Black Helicopters

    @Steve

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

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

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

  58. Dan Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Infinte loop

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

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

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Did People Really Expect...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Campaigns to spread fear were widespread"

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

    New is to Labour as National is to Socialism.

  60. This post has been deleted by its author

  61. Jimmy
    IT Angle

    @ Dennis

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

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

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

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

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    kill them all

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

  63. Irate BT User
    Thumb Down

    How many times have they just copied this Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    In Case Anyone Has Forgotten

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

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

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    An alternative thought...

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

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

  66. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    The Real Reason for Delayed Response

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

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

  67. James Pickett
    Go

    @gulfie

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

    They have. Latest issue, p.26

  68. James Pickett
    Go

    @aimee

    "countermeasures"

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

  69. dephormation.org.uk
    Pirate

    @aimee - accept the inevitable my ar5e

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

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

    PHORM MUST BE STOPPED

  70. FoolD
    Stop

    Head in Sand

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

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

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

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @dephormation.org.uk

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

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

  72. Mark

    More weasly ambiguity

    From the statement:

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

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

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

  73. dephormation.org.uk
    Pirate

    @aimee

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

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

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

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

  74. Irate BT User

    Just keep going until they have to Listen!!

    @aimee

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

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

  75. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    Come on the EU

    That is all I can say.

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

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

  76. James Pickett

    That's all right, then

    "statement about the product"

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

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

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @dephormation.org.uk

    Hi

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

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

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

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

  78. Graham Wood

    @Chris Williams

    > The FOI request is in.

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

    Ta.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Three Things

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

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

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

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @three things

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

    They do that anyway, dont they?

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

  81. bobbles31
    Go

    Mileage in a new service?

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

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

  82. bobbles31
    Paris Hilton

    @Three Things

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

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

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

    Paris because of some lewd joke about both ends!

  83. dephormation.org.uk
    Pirate

    If you want countermeasures...

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

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

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

    Edmund Burke

  84. Greg Bates
    Go

    @El Reg. Please get FOI in for BERR letter

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

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

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

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

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

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

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

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Action Required Immediately!

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

    "...

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

    Next Wednesday, MEPs will vote on the Telecoms package.

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

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

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

    ...

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

    ....

    "

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Tory promises in print?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    BT interests are at stake...?

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

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

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

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

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They never watched Yes Minister?

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

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

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

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love how

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

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

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

  91. Jimmy

    Your data is important to us, please hold.

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

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

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

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

  92. michael

    vote for the blue ones?

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

  93. Alan Fisher

    Labour?

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

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

  94. dave
    Thumb Down

    I have.....

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

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

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