back to article Ad slinger Phorm ceases trading

Controversial ad targeting firm Phorm has ceased trading. Phorm’s decision follows a failure to secure enough funding to run its business, as explained in a statement to the London Stock Exchange here. Phorm an advertising-technology company and first party data platform provider, announces that, further to its announcement …

  1. Stumpy

    Oh happy, happy day!

    1. Richard Wharram

      If only they'd realised they could have bought the data off the UK government for a few bob.

    2. Bob Vistakin
      Pint

      They spied, got caught and now can Phuck off.

    3. Swarthy Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Well, cut me in half and call me a munchkin

      'Cause Ding-Dong the Witch is dead!

  2. John Robson Silver badge

    Regrettably?

    Best decision ever.

    Taken a long while though - hope the major losses are confined to those not at the coal face

    1. Vimes

      Re: Regrettably?

      I suspect all the people on the coal face left a long time ago.

      Only those such as BT executive Ian Livingston really seemed to managed to avoid ending up being severely tarnished as a result of this, at least where subsequent employment was concerned.

      His reward was being a place in the House of Lords by Dave 'It's a Private Matter' Cameron - and not that long either after Cameron decided it would be a really good decision to hire Andy Coulson and make him part of the team.

      And as for Kent 'neo-luddite' Ertugrul is concerned, how much money did he manage to extract from the company over the past 10 years? He might mourn the passing of his company but I suspect he won't be one of the ones suffering.

      The less said about the involvement of Norman Lamont & Patricia Hewitt in this whole escapade the better.

      The only good thing about this is that the company never really got anywhere significant outside of their BT trials, so there probably aren't many people on the 'coal face' to suffer in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regrettably?

        Dave 'It's a Private Matter' Cameron

        aka "Dogdy Dave"? ;)

        1. Vimes

          Re: Regrettably?

          I still prefer 'Deluded Dave'.

          Remember him saying 'blame me' when people had been doing that from the very start?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dodgy Dave

          You can't call him Dodgy Dave. Even though everyone knows it's a prefectly true and valid description, those words will get you barred from the House (viz Dennis Skinner a few days ago)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dodgy Dave

            I'm barred from that house anyway! Likewise many other sites standing for icons of freedom and democracy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dodgy Dave

            "You can't call him Dodgy Dave"

            Only in Parliament. And I suspect John Bercow agreed with Skinner, he just had to apply the rules even-handedly.

        3. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Regrettably?

          I prefer 'Former Prime Minister Dave"

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Regrettably?

          aful spelin, I ment to say "Dodgy Dave", my bad!

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Regrettably?

          "Pigdie" not "dogdy" surely

    2. Camilla Smythe

      Re: Regrettably?

      hope the major losses are confined to those not at the coal face

      You appear to be missing an Icon. Probably the fault of El Reg.

      The major losers, apparently $400 million worth, were 'investor idiots'... that's your pension money. The 'data miners', at the coal face, got paid a pretty penny for their efforts out of that $400 million.

      Perhaps you might consider setting up a Phorm Shareholders Action Group.

      Zero Fucks Given All Round.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Regrettably?

        @Camillia

        Not necessarily - there are no significant pension funds among Phorms major shareholders unless you are with Standard Life and even thats tiny. You probably lose more from your pension due to Market fluctuations across 1 day.

        Phorm Major Shareholders (from Morningstar)

        Capital Research and Management Company 6.87

        VA CollegeAmerica Smcap World 529E 4.42

        Hargreave Hale Limited 3.78

        American Funds IS® Global Small Cap 2 2.45

        Standard Life Assurance Company 1.27

        Miton Asset Management Limited 0.31

        Forbes J M & Co 0.02

        1. Camilla Smythe

          Re: Regrettably? @Camilla

          Duh-Oh.. Silly me. The 'companies' concerned dug up their own Sugar Beet, sold it on the market and invested the profits in Phorm.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Regrettably?

        They took $400M in investment!.

        What the fuck did they do with that amount of cash? How much can you spend on Deep Packet Inspection? Literally burning the money to keep warm would be a slower rate of using it.

        Dear God, somebody has made a pretty penny of of this one.

  3. Vimes

    It looks like some of those involved have already moved on to other things...

    https://nodpi.org/forum/index.php/topic,6935.0/topicseen.html

  4. Robert Ramsay

    As Michael Palin put it in "A Fish Called Wanda"...

    "Good."

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "UK prosecutors ruled that prosecution of the firm for violation of data interception laws would not be in the public interest in 2011."

    Probably on the grounds of "we wouldn't like the precedent it would set".

    1. Vimes

      "UK prosecutors ruled that prosecution of the firm for violation of data interception laws would not be in the public interest in 2011."

      Note the role of Keir Starmer played at the time. And the role he's trying to play now where the IP Bill is concerned.

      We are all really up a certain creek without a paddle if we have to rely on people like him...

  6. x 7

    good riddance

    and well done to the refusenik investors

    1. IsJustabloke
      Meh

      hmmm....

      While I don't disagree with you I'd be very surprised if there were refusniks on any moral ground.

    2. Vimes

      'Refusenik'? Seriously?

      The value of Phorm shares were continually being diluted with new ones being issued to cover existing debts. Yet time after time they managed to raise their funds despite having little more than a shell of a company and a handful of sock puppet supporters on some stock trading forums (<waves in the direction of HamsterWheel>)

    3. tekHedd

      Extended version

      In this case, I believe the extended version is appropriate:

      Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheerio ?

    Fuckety-bye more like.

  8. kmac499

    TAX Question

    Wasn't Phorm one of the many companies registered in the wonderful state of Delaware, famed the world over for it's <ahem> encouragement of entrepenurial effort..

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a failure to secure enough funding to run its business

    they've suckered enough money over the last, how many, 10 years, since that BT fiasco?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reduce the group's headcount

    down to the board of directors, eh?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: reduce the group's headcount

      And a small dachshund named Colin.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    prosecution... not be in the public interest

    Peculiar that such statments always (?) appear to relate to mega-scandals, with BIG money changing hands and top gov officials involved. In plain English I read: "Yeah, guilty, but we can't prosecute ourselves, can we, so f... off!"

    So who had a finger in the Phorm pie?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: prosecution... not be in the public interest

      The Home Office, and not as much a finger as an eye.

      1. Vimes

        Re: prosecution... not be in the public interest

        ...not to mention both the Labour party (Patricia Hewitt) and the conservatives (Norman Lamont). Then of course you have the CTO of BT moving to work as the CTO of Phorm, the former head of the CPS who has conveniently since been elected as a Labour MP and the former MD of BT who is now in the House of Lords.

        I'm sure it's an enjoyable game of professional musical chairs, and one that has proven to be highly profitable for those directly involved in the scheme. It's just a pity about everybody else...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: prosecution... not be in the public interest

          "the CTO of BT moving to work as the CTO of Phorm"

          Only BT Retail, wasn't it, mind you, And moving to Phorm after he'd denied that any secret trials were happening at BT Retail, if I recall correctly.

          https://uk.linkedin.com/in/stratis-scleparis-74024389

          Any relation to this one:

          https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/7WTAOYODoFfa8-4qgT_O6l6g9Dc/appointments

      2. Vimes

        Re: prosecution... not be in the public interest

        https://www.dephormation.org.uk/?page=83

        Pay particular attention to the last section titled 'Awkward Questions'...

  12. dephormation.org.uk
    Thumb Up

    Thank you

    Just briefly wanted to say thank you, to the Reg and its readers for all your support.

    I'm delighted Phorm have ceased trading. I look forward to seeing Phorm finally struck off & dissolved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thank you

      typo: Phorm finally 'fuck' off & dissolved

    2. Gordon G
      Pint

      Re: Thank you

      Hic!

      Having opened the bottle at last, I raise an unusually large glass of top quality home-made sloe gin to you, Pete - your work has been much appreciated.

      :)

  13. Chris King Silver badge

    Don't crack open the champagne too soon...

    The company may be gone, but that doesn't necessarily mean the tech is gone.

    The brains that helped create it still exist, and they could re-create it in a new way elsewhere.

    And you can also bet that somebody has copies of the source code safetly stashed away.

    Phorm is not dead - the stupidity merely sleeps.

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: Don't crack open the champagne too soon...

      Yeah I'm getting Person of Interest Samaritan type vibes here.

      Somewhere an attaché case with a couple of HDDs in it are being handed over.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Don't crack open the champagne too soon...

        Yeah I'm getting Person of Interest Samaritan type vibes here.

        Damn. Now you've put the image of Sarah Shahi back into my mind. That's gonna take a chunk out of my productivity, especially this late in the day.

    2. cd / && rm -rf *
      Facepalm

      Re: Don't crack open the champagne too soon...

      Phorm is not dead - the stupidity merely sleeps

      Like SCO, you mean? <shudder>

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Or to put it in non-marketerspeek: we're broke again and there's no-one stupid enough to give us any dosh this time.

  15. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    In the words of Sergeant-Major Williams

    Oh dear, how sad, never mind

  16. NotBob
    Coat

    It's a Christmas Miracle!

    Normally I hate to see a company go under. This time, though, I'm delighted.

    As mentioned before me, though, no technology is really dead. This will be back, possibly under some government's control.

    Mine's the one with the tinfoil lining.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would it be bad phorm to gloat?

    Apparently not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would it be bad phorm to gloat?

      I'm surprised none of the promoters of this enterprise had phorm.

      1. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: Would it be bad phorm to gloat?

        More puns? Packet in the pair of you!

  18. AndrueC Silver badge
  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They lose 413 million dollars and no one says hey wait a sec where's my money? What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?

    I also note the "not in the public interest" part, well they didn't ask me so how does that work?

    Good riddance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?"

      Not that this excellent enterprise would ever have done such things, but here is a short list of the things that the founders of cash-losing enterprises have in the past wasted money on:

      Hookers

      Blow

      Fast cars

      Sports sponsorship

      Lawyers

      Political bribery

      Inflated salaries

      Investments that turned bad

      Investments in the schemes of relatives of directors that turned bad

      Just paying far too much for things bought from friends of the directors

      Expensive and underutilised offices and/or IT assets

      Big boats

      More hookers.

      As you can see, there are plenty of others beyond such boring ones as having a bad business plan, managerial incompetence, and having far too many staff with nothing to do.

      Phorm obviously has done none of these so they must have found a new money disposal system, which shows true business originality.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?"

        Excellent, I was just about to write up my ToDo list for this month, and you've handed it right to me!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?"

        I was dragooned into working with them some years back at the time of the infamous "BT trials".

        I would add two items to the list:

        1: Stupidly expensive office space on Regent St (next door to Liberty)

        2: Army of Russian coders who kept re-inventing the entire system from scratch and *never* delivered one that worked

        When a vendor turns up to a demo with half a dozen developers who sit in a corner typing furiously you just know the demo ain't going to work.

        1. x 7

          Re: "What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?"

          "Army of Russian coders"

          so it really was genuine spyware

          1. dephormation.org.uk
            Mushroom

            Re: "What exactly did they spend it all on and how do you get away with such things?"

            Phorm was an industrial espionage scam... designed to extract economic intelligence from private/confidential communications.

            It really was genuine spyware, GCHQ should have killed it with fire, and the people responsible for installing it should have been tried for treason.

    2. Jagged
      Unhappy

      "Not in the public interest"

      Unfortunately "In the public interest" doesn't mean what it used to mean any more and now only means "things likely to sell newspapers" or "likely to drive internet traffic".

      See extra marital affairs of celebrities.

  20. Snar

    Yes!

    I've been waiting for this bunch of cockwombles to finally crawl away into a corner and rot...

    Yay!

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Yes!

      Upvoted just for "!coockwombles"

  21. Patrician
    Thumb Up

    Couldn't happen to a more deserving company.

  22. Nym O'Nonymous

    They were never prosecuted because the law doesn't clearly say that mere interception by a computer without disclosing it to a human is a crime and Phorm therefore had a good chance of getting away with it. That's the difficulty of trying to apply a law made for wiretapping to the Internet.

    As for the surrounding "campaign", what a magnificent victory for privacy, eh? Yes, we can certainly sleep safer in our beds knowing that there's not massive instrusive profiling of Internet users going on can't we? Pah, waste of time driven by self-serving idiots.

    But the cookie faking that Phorm proposed? Nasty, all kinds of potential nastiness in that...

    Overall good riddance.

    1. Vimes

      the law doesn't clearly say that mere interception by a computer without disclosing it to a human is a crime

      RIPA mentions *interception*. Whether it's disclosed or not is completely irrelevant to the discussion. Don't buy into the crap perpetuated by the likes of Google.

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/23/section/1

    2. Vimes

      As for the surrounding "campaign", what a magnificent victory for privacy, eh? Yes, we can certainly sleep safer in our beds knowing that there's not massive instrusive profiling of Internet users going on can't we? Pah, waste of time driven by self-serving idiots.

      One problem at a time.

      First Phorm, next the CJEU court case that could see the IP bill neutered before it can do any real damage. And unless you noticed even the new 'Privacy Shield' that was going to replace the now defunct 'Safe Harbour' scheme has run into issues, with the Article 29 Working Party basically coming out against it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Vimes

        That's an explanation of the why the Tory Right want out of the EU that I can easily get behind.

        Rotten unelected bastards want to stop us snooping on people for money!

    3. asdf Silver badge

      Google sucks but ...

      >Yes, we can certainly sleep safer in our beds knowing that there's not massive instrusive profiling of Internet users going on can't we?

      Granted I am no fan of Google but at least they have to give away some free or reduced cost shiny (ala trojan horse business model) to get people to hand over the data (flagship phone unlocked for 300 bucks, Chrome, Gmail etc). Phorm wanted to force it on all broadband customers with the dosh going only to them and the ISP shareholders.

    4. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Considering all the timings of Phorm etc. I always wondered if it played any part in Snowden's subsequent actions.

      This is the reason why whistleblowers are supposed to be protected by law, so that others are encouraged to do the same (no idea if Snowden was even aware of Phorm btw).

      However, any action to suppress whistleblowers is, by default, authoritarian and totally insidious - it should be killed with fire - stamped on, and then consigned to the abyssal depths of the Atlantic.

  23. RoboticRabbit
    Pirate

    Worry not!

    No executives were harmed in the making of this debacle. They are very well fed, happy, their nests are well feathered and have eggs. They will find new homes eventually, to start the cycle of life elsewhere once more.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Worry not!

      Sociopaths usually do take care of number one. Funny that.

  24. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Thumb Up

    I'm so upset.

    Now excuse me while I do my happydance round the office :)

  25. ZootCadillac

    Could not happen to a nicer bunch of people ;)

    Very proud to have been a small part of the original NoDPI members who fought hard to fire this monstrosity out of the UK.

  26. oldfartuk

    Phorm phinally phucked phor phuture

    Bloody good job. A vile despicable bit of snoopware, the day the unauthorised test came to light I switched over to a VPN. When I want BT to know what im browsing ill bloody well tell them voluntarily.

  27. Paratrooping Parrot
    Happy

    Yay!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Jn8K8EA7-Q

  28. nsld

    Happy Thursday

    Well that brightened up what has been a shit week.

    Let's hope some of the scum who decided it wasn't in the public interest to prosecute these cockwombles lost a lot of money.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Happy Thursday

      Not likely. One's a Labour MP now.

      Personally I'm still waiting for somebody to highlight Keir Starmer's history of failure in protecting us from snooping given his current role in representing the Labour party where the IP Bill is concerned.

      And the less said about Alison Saunders the better...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Keir Starmer

        Some highlights of his time as Director of Public Prosecutions (courtesy ft.com):

        "Jimmy Savile: The CPS apologised for failing to follow up reports of child abuse by victims of the late, disgraced children’s TV presenter. It said three-quarters of the allegations could have been pursued but police and prosecutors treated victims too cautiously.

        Kweku Adoboli: The CPS successfully prosecuted the former UBS trader in November. He was convicted of two counts of fraud, after his unauthorised trading led to losses of $2.3bn at the Swiss bank, the biggest banking fraud in British history. He received a seven-year prison sentence.

        Phone hacking: Mr Starmer said in 2009 that there was no new evidence to warrant an investigation after the original inquiry in 2006, which had led to people being charged. But a political storm blew up in July 2011, after a report in The Guardian newspaper that suggested the mobile phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl, had been hacked. Scores have been arrested since, with one senior police officer convicted this month of misconduct in public office.

        Ian Tomlinson: The CPS’s initial stance was that, because of disagreements between pathologists, no charges would be brought in the case of Mr Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor who died after being pushed to the ground during the 2009 G20 protests in London. That position was overturned in 2011, when Simon Harwood, the police officer who struck Mr Tomlinson, was charged with manslaughter after a new inquest. He was acquitted by a jury in 2012."

        [The FT doesn't mention that one of the two disagreeing pathologists, the one supporting the Met, was later struck off:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19355106]

        It would obviously be unfair to summarise Starmer's time at the CPS as "establishment insiders are safe, the rest, not so safe".

  29. BT Customer

    Delighted that after 8 years of lies, abuse, personally targeted criminal attempts to access my computer (unsuccessfully) via keylogger software originating myteriously and anonymously from Singapore-based mailservers, harassment by trolls, lies, cowardly libels, the scandal of ill-informed and inaccurate smear sites such as uninphormed.com and stopphoulplay.com, mysterious probes of my charity websites by Phorm, Police, Home Office, MOD, and a whole host of others, plus regular assaults on my privacy and reputation (including some of the worst coming ironically from a self-proclaimed "privacy advocate" who now has an offshore company registered in Belize), this particular part of the battle is over - but there is a lot more to be done to try and prevent further invasions of our privacy and interception of our communications by ISPs, ad-tech, multi-national corporations, ad-trackers, and mass unwarranted state surveillance. Sadly DPI interception of web communications by companies like BlueCoat Systems, and ISP surveillance such as TalkTalk Homesafe along with routine email surveillance by Gmail and Yahoo! have just become part of life, irrespective of what legislation says about bilateral consent. That has to change.

    I've got to know some great friends in the campaign to rid the world of Ertugrul's Russian DPI poison - well done you people! I'll b cracking open some bubbly from a "Kent" vineyard this weekend to celebrate!

  30. Herby Silver badge

    We only hope this...

    Sets an example for others to follow. Now that the company is down (and almost) out, investors will thing twice (at least I hope) when attempting to finance other such endeavors.

    Snake oil doesn't sell well!

  31. Captain Boing

    what a bloody shame!

    my heart bleeds

  32. raving angry loony

    One down.

    One down, 643,992 to go. Sadly.

    As for them taking the money and running, perhaps they took enough money from idiots to stop those same idiots from spending money on other ad scammers? Nah, who am I kidding, there's always idiots out there thinking they're better scammers than the ad companies. It's why there's so many ad companies.

  33. Mike Pellatt

    "Not operated in the UK for years"

    I have here a job ad that I saved away from them, in London, for a Linux Engineer, dated Sep 2014. Not that long ago, except in "Internet Years, pah"

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