All this "correcting" of articles has given me an idea for a website.
You control articles written about you.
Tag line: it's a bit like facebook except it pretends to be an encyclopedia.
Phorm has admitted that it deleted key factual parts of the Wikipedia article about the huge controversy fired by its advertising profiling deals with BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse. The tracking and ad targeting firm said in an email: "We wanted to clarify a number of inaccuracies in the Wikipedia entry on Phorm." …
They are, pretty much, screwed.
They're in the public eye in a bad ligh with a bad product that no one wants apart from the ISPs, though even they are now all backing away nervously.
If they'd been open and honest from the start they might have had some shred of credibility, but they don't. Editing their Wiki article like this was a stupid move in my opinion.
A BT representative meanwhile wrote in an email: "I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services."
Yeah right, besides violating the site's policy they agree to abide by ?
I guess they saw nothing wrong either in conducting the stealth data pimping trials.
I never, ever, EVER thought I would say this, but, I'm a big man and I can do it, without even wincing.
Well Done Wikipedia - preventing Phorm's attempted manipulation of their entry to cloud the facts and silence their critics is credit to the ideals by which Wikipedia is supposed to work.
I feel dirty, now...
How can any PR company (who aren't a bunch of wankers) NOT be aware of the Wikipedia policies? Or is this just even more bullshit from Phorm.
Do they really think we were all born yesterday. As each day goes by their arrogance and disregard for everyone else (peoples rights, the concept of free speech) just gets more and more unreal.
Whether it is companies using Wiki as advertising, idiots using it to incorrectly re-number TV episode lists or Megacorps using it as a way of dispersing propaganda - I've said it before and I've said it again. Wiki doesn't work!
And to think, a few months ago the Wiki guys were trying to convince UK universities to allow Wiki as a reference source for dissertations!
I guess it really just highlights just how technically savvy the Phorm clowns are, that they thought they would be able to get away with this unnoticed.
Will anyone at BT et al now ponder if this glaring lack of technical acumen might perhaps be a sign that the company isn't capable of being trusted with their customers private data after all? Perhaps not.
Paris 'cos she knows so much about private data being distributed.
BT are starting to smell as bad as their parasitical buddies. First they lie to thier customers, now they seems to defend the blatant attempt to sanitise the facts about this invasion of our privacy - the fact that Phorms PR droids (or whoever) were unaware of wiki policy just shows the arrogance with which they operate, not only do they assume they have some god given right to our data, they assume they can distort data on websites to suit their own ends
Of course BT wouldnt see a conflict of interest would they? They cant see past that cheque from Phrom for selling out their customers privacy (aka data that isnt theirs to sell).
There is an interesting precedent here though.
Clearly, they didnt read the WIKI AUP and T&C before they got the scissors out... right?
So how can this now be opt in by default, on the assumption that people will have read and understood any T&C change published in some remote corner of an ISP web page?
Surely now theres an unbreakable case that this must be placed infront of each and every affceted ISP customer by email and a POSITIVE OPT IN required before inclusion? Phrom have clearly demonstarted that people DONT routinely check T&C so to obtain informed consent to data interception they have to ptretty much wave the thing in everyones faces before they go ahead
It seems that there are many things the Phorm PR Team are unaware of...
Perhaps like Kent they were 'confused'... or even conphused...
I do hope that the PR Team are at least following all of the new security and legal issues that are being raised by various well qualified people - would'nt want them to get that wrong as well...
"I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services"
To 'correct' something it has to be incorrect to be put into a state of correctness.
Someone should explain to that self-interested complete cock that 'factually correct' is actually .. err..
Maybe he'll claim stupidity and a feeble grasp of the English language as the justification for the mods.That, at least, would be believable.
The only difference between what these these guys are doing and what every other corporate entity out there is doing is that Phorm got caught. This "grassroots" power-to-the-people stuff only works until someone figures out how to game it.
Anon because I don't want the corporate entity that owns me seeing me admit I know about their (our?) astroturfing in public.
so in light of this, is it ok to edit the wikipedia entry to say that they tried to remove parts of the entry? seeing as though they have admitted doing it is it not a fact that they tried to edit the entry? someone please look into this and update the wikipedia entry immediately ;)
You know something big is at stake when the marketing turns into propagandizing and guerilla media manipulation. Say a letter of intent from the PRC to acquire the technology, subject to a successful pilot implementation - to wit, verifiable operation in the UK. That would be a big stake.
A big stake thru the heart of humanity.
Look at Biographicon - you get to make a wiki page about yourself. Well an autobiography basically. Also has links to other people.
We let you know yesterday that we had proposed amendments to the Phorm entry on Wikipedia – there were several factual inaccuracies that were pointed out to us. Having reviewed our suggested changes with hindsight, we accept that we were a little over zealous in our efforts to make those corrections and that we erroneously removed some relevant items in the editing process. These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future."
I think the proper, dignified, respectable response to this is STFU NOOB!
I do like that they admitted it though. No one censors something if they have nothing to hide, or nothing they arent proud about. Phorm, unsurprisingly, has a veritable graveyard of skeletons in its closet.
I know El Reg readers don't have the best opinion of Wikipedia. But I think we can all agree that this wasn't just underhand, it was idiotic. About as subtle as swanning into the Guardian's office and trying to edit a hack's article on your company using their computer. While they're still sitting at it.
You can influence a Wikipedia article one way or the other, especially positively. Rather than one, giant, anonymous whitewash, you do slight, gradual changes, explained in great tedious detail on the talk page, all of it couched in the language and jargon they feel comfortable with, and if you can't out-bore the other editors (admittedly a difficult task) then resort to the myriad Byzantine conflict-resolution processes. All of them, one by one. I won't go into more detail because I'm not doing their PR monkeys' work for free. If Phorm wants a whitewashed article, then they can sack whichever incompetent made the cackhanded first attempt and pay me £6,000 an hour in consultancy fees to get it done (I doubt I'm asking for much more than Citigate and the rest are getting for their conspicuous epic failure.) I'll also need enough crack and hoes during the negotiation process to annihilate my soul, of course, but that won't take long.
Anonymous because I don't want to give the game away to Wikipedians and it's not like BT can't dip into my traffic to find out who I am.
"Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy" ... yet they were posting anyway. That sounds like they clearly violated the a policy they choose to ignore in order to do what ever they wanted.
When you sign up to any site you agree to be bound by their terms, its really that simple.
Also they admit a mistake this time and that it won't happen again.... hmm dont belive them it definitately could happen in the future, 'sorry we gave all your data to someone even nastier than us, oops'
Quote "Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest."
Like hell, they hadn't. Lies, deceit and spin have characterised Phorm and BT's behaviour throughout this whole sorry saga. They cannot be trusted nor believed.
But as Tim says (above), at least they're increasingly in the public eye in a bad light. It's sometimes said there's no such thing as bad PR - but that's bollocks.
Unfortunately, Tim, I don't agree that the ISPs are "all backing away nervously." Carphone may have expressed reservations, but Virgin is sitting on the fence and BT is sticking to Phorm like shit to a blanket.
The 'Phuck ophph, Phorm' campaign must continue. Aux armes, citoyens!
This "grassroots" thing is here to stay; we're too well-connected. Technology has empowered and organised people to the point where quickly distributing information and raising awareness is ridiculously easy, whilst corporate regulation of that same information is impossible.
Phorm is all but dead. They've completely failed to factor in not only the public backlash against their nasty, cynical product which is totally antithetic to the current zeitgeist of openness and community, but also just how informed and united that public could become. BT, as usual, are likewise staggeringly slow on the uptake.
Their fall will be the first of many slow-moving corporate entities which fail to understand that the make or break decision lies with a 21st century internet citizen - connected, informed, politicised, vocal and fast. We will not be sold to in such underhanded fashion, and we will ensure they fail should they try to deceive us.
If there genuinly were inacuracies then they should be corrected. End of story. You cant all complain about the wikipedia being a joke and then moan when someone corrects it.
On the other hand who can trust this lot to edit their own page? so they should have just got somone else to do it.
Paris - because i'm not funny at all and i like stale over done jokes because i'm not very original
how is this unusual? there was a large group of organizations (including the CIA and ExxonMobil) revealed some months ago (after the originating IPs were traced) to edit facts out of Wikipedia, in a blatant astroturfing move.
this latest offering by Phorm is strictly pro phorma (oops, sorry) PR; so really, the bunnies were just doing their jobs, censoring reality to fit the corporate agenda.
as for BT, the company appears well on its way to NSI glory. during the heady days of the Network Solutions monopoly, one of its executives actually threatened an aggrieved customer with violence. with pervasive government influence, ethics-free management (CTO moves to legally-ambiguous vendor, no problem?), and feeble regulatory oversight (Ofcom is just kidding, really), BT is poised to write the next chapter in NSI's old playbook.
good luck with that, guys, and remember, an AT&T never dies; it reconstitutes itself like the T2000...a'course, as the new at&t, it's totally different, no?
I find myself morbidly amused. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. In this case, as this 'movie' progresses, we come to know the characters inside a little better each day ... and can't wait for the final impending wreck.
Paris because her films weren't near as fun to watch.
Just when you think you have these greasy little worms pegged they manage to slide down the scumbag scale another 5 pegs, and what is worse is that BT seem quite content to get dragged down with them.
Either BT's big boss cannot see the end of a shot gun when it is an inch from his face or he doesn't know about it yet....and if it's the former then the amount he must be getting paid to kill a companies rep is sickening.
Given the ferocity of Phorm's defence and BT's blatant lying, there must be some serious money going about here.
This must be make or break(here's hoping) for Phorm with BT and the other telco's involved having been promised some substantial revenue.
Obvious perhaps, but it leads me to another question. Have Phorm already got big players signed up to by their ill-gotten gains?
Everything Phorm does and pretends to be, smacks of deception..
How can anybody trust this outfit?
They cannot be trusted with anybody's data in my opinion. They can't even market honestly!
Every action on their part attempts to deceive. They misquote, take things out of context and I for one am very wary of them. So should you be!
"I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services"
No, nor do I. But removing fully accurate, publicy acknowledged by your own company, FACTS from the Wikipedia article is not "correcting". If BT can't see the conflict of interests in this action by Phorm, and the correctness of Wikipedia's response, then they're even thicker than I thought... and believe me, that's pretty thick.
How can they argue this!?!?! If the test was to see if customers noticed, and they never informed there technical staff on the helpdesks, how can they know they're getting the correct results? if the staff don't know about the test, customer calls in reporting odd findings, tech staff them to reboot, end of story. This is a bloody fallacy of the highest order.
James, Unfortunatley I dont think we (the dissenters) can win this, BT at least will push on, take the hit in lost customers since they seem to stand to gain an £85 million revenue stream, whats a few customers?
Tom, even though they didnt inform the tech help desks the trials were still detected regardless so I dont see how the trial could have been seen as a success.
As for the statement "These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future." I guess this allows some wriggle room if it does happen again (or at least if they get caught!) since they are only going to endevour to see it doesnt happen again. Or did they mean that they will promise a nice new revenue stream to Wikipedia so that Phorms PR editings are not removed in future?
I would love it if Phorm died a nasty death but unfortunatley I can't see it. I am looking for a new ISP that just wants to connect me to the web, no email, no bollocks like webwise, just a connection. We can all dream...........
Everyone who is concerned enough about this company's activities, will also take it upon themselves to contact everyone they know with a BT Talk Talk or Virgin media internet account and persuade them and anyone else likewise to go elsewhere.
And once the companies that were foolish enough to embark on this business mis-adventure realise the damage they have done to their own customer base, this turd of an organisation can be safely flushed down the toilet.
"Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest. Among many other rules they violated..."
It's UK policy to follow UK laws too... such as UK privacy laws, which they had obviously not been made aware of too... and then violated them with the help of BT... ignorance is not an excuse!
I am just amazed that someone from BT corporate hasn't stepped in and put a complete stop to this.
Until now, everyone has known that BT, if they wished, could listen to your phone calls and read your internet traffic. However, BT, as the former PTT, was very well trusted (very few people used scramblers on their telephone!). This trusted brand was the major competitive advantage for BT. Now, with ill-advised greed, someone at BT has completely destroyed that trust and hence that brand value. The BT brand has been reduced to the same level as Talk Talk!
I really don't see the Gov't taking much notice when the petition to make Jeremy Clarkson PM is at number 3.
Kinda shows the whole No 10 Petition thing for the joke it is.
Still, at least it shows the level of public discontent for Phorm. But Gordo do anything about it................
Tuesday 8 April 2008
Lord Phillips of Sudbury
House of Lords
Dear Lord Phillips of Sudbury,
Regarding the recent developments in the public versus Bt-Phorm’s
invasive internet technology.
I have been made aware of section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and that Bt and 3rd party 121media have
deliberately committed a minimum of 36,000 offences under this act by
hacking into users accounts and altering their internet browsing
activities without them knowing.
I believe certain other individuals in past years have been fairly
prosecuted and imprisoned for similar crimes of this nature but recent
reports seem to indicate the British Government is in approval of Bt’s
defiance of these same laws. Can you confirm Bt along with 121Media
are being granted immunity from prosecution and why?
Hey listen, I guess we assume BT's plan was/is to sell adverts. But look, if BT is your ISP, they have your email address, your snail-mail address, and your phone number. What wonderful scope for chucking unsolicited selling at you!
This HAS to be made ILLEGAL! An ISP ought to be bound in the same way as say, your bank is. Erm, which bank? Let's not go into that again!
Don't know why you lot are suddenly so fussed about your ISP watching you, they've been doing it for years. You don't seriously believe your email and surfing goes direct from your machine to your intended destination without anyone peeking, do you?
Every router or server you touch will log the contact, especially since our trans-Atlantic friends brought in the SOX rules.
I'm not sure who's worse - Phorm for thinking they could get away with collecting data illegaly or the rest of you for being naive enough to think they're the only ones out there doing it...
(Todays Carnivore Bait: "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.")
Black heli cos there's one just outside my window, right now... hmm, wha't that shiny cylinder fo...........
Actually, if you bother to read the relevant EU and UK legislation, your scenario falls under Data Retention directives which changed a couple of years ago to require that ISPs log the destination of emails for a period of 12 months.
What you seem to fail to understand is that there is a huge difference between that high level logging and the low level interceptions being used by this Phorm DPI technology.
Furthermore, if a user doesn't use their ISPs email service (for example I run my own) there is no danger of even data retention in the UK.
There is Echelon, but the difference with Echelon is that it doesn't actively use the data being logged (according to all the reports I have read on it), it stores the data for future use with regards to national/international security and again there is no indication of Deep Packet Inspection being used by Echelon.
Calling us naive because we don't want our ISPs to literally read every single web page we visit for the purposes of building profiles for targeted advertising is an oxymoron, as we are in fact the opposite of naive.
If of course you have any references you can cite to show that the government and ISPs have been breaching RIPA for such a long time already, then you should provide them and relevant action can be taken. In the UK a warrant is still required for a wire-tap so any public authority or business breaking the law by circumventing the relevant procedures need to be reported accordingly.
There is nothing we can do about public authorities using warrants for the purpose of preventing/investigating a crime or national security, it is accounted for under the relevant law (RIPA), but there is something we can do about the systematic spying of an ISP who think they can use DPI for commercial gain through advertising; which is exactly what has happened (and is going to happen again).
Now if you have nothing useful to add to the discussion, why post at all?
Today I telephoned BT Customer Services and explained at length to the poor customer service agent that I really don't want Webwise, and a list of reasons why.
- Plus the fact that I *will* leave them if they roll it out in its current form.
If every BT customer who doesn't want this service to be forced upon them call BT Customer Services and tell them, they are far more likely to take note.
Also, as we telephone them, their customer service agents will start to learn what it is - they still haven't been trained, so my call took 27 minutes.
To top it off - it's a freephone number: 0800 800 150
So get calling!
Large companies DO listen to their customers when enough of them complain!
According to that wiki article, it says the BBC, ft.com, The Guardian, iVillage, Universal McCann, Myspace, MGM OMD and Unanimis had initially expressed an interest about Phorm.
The BBC?!? Is this the same BBC that's been reading out Phorm press releases and calling them news?
Black helicopters, cos, y'know, it's all a conspiracy...
"The spokesman said Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest."
So the bad behaviour was in breaking Wikipedia's rules on self-serving editing, rather than the self-serving editing itself?
Look on the bright side - all those wonderful RIAA/MPAA induced laws about intellectual property and copyrights are actually going to have some use once these yahoos (not to be confused with the other Yahoo - note the absence of bang) get up and running.
Class action civil suit, anyone? *How* many websites are "no commercial use" licensed?
The El Reg consensus, as I read it, is:
1) Everything written on Wikipedia is bollocks, by definition, as its Byzantine bureaucracy full of sperging teenagers with no respect for letters after people's names cannot possibly produce anything worthwhile;
2) The only thing worse than a sperging teenager with no respect for letters after people's names in a Byzantine bureaucracy is a PR consultant hired by Phorm, and by editing Wikipedia they've made it even worse than it is (until a sperging teen da da da reverted the article).
Oops, I used the word 'consensus'. Still haven't disentangled my mind from the Wikibollocks, it seems.
This post has been deleted by its author
Come on, if BT can't see the absolute ineptitudes of Phorm's management and PR teams, then they clearly deserve each other; a match made in hell.
And since I really can't eloquently add anything original to the public opinion of Phorm and the gaggle of ISP's who are conspiring against their customers, I will part with this... Last night I started my congressional letter writing campaign to stop Phorm, here in the states, before they spread their criminal activities elsewhere.
I'm also pestering my friends in Canada to start letter writing campaigns to their government.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for making money, but not at the expense of anymore personal privacy. We're already basically over a barrel head and succumbing to the likes of Phorm would be the last line in the sand, regardless of how they attempt to sugarcoat this monumental, stinky, slimy turd.
I suspect Phorm knew perfectly bloody well their "corrections" would get wiped out. I guess they banked on people wiki-ing them a LOT whilst they were in the news - and knew the alterations would last at least long enough for the majority of people to look it up and get a favorable impression and forget the whole thing.
A pound to a pinch of s...snuff..... the tech gets renamed as something else and foisted upon us anyway, once the fuss has died down. Probably called something like "BT MEDIAVISION" or "FIRESERVE", or something really positive and sexy-sounding.
"Oh no, here's a golden opportunity to diss Phorm, but it means showing Wikipedia in a good light. Should we run it or not?"
Ouch, might miss a chance to show Phorm up for the charlatans they are, but ouch, might make Wikipedia look reasonable.
Still, in the end we know what the bigger problem is.
LOL, you have to laugh when Phorm spend all that cash on the so called Top 5 PR teams, and the PR teams end up needing their own PR teams.
does that cash come out of the first teams cashpot?, at least they are still making a profit as those PR4PR teams are the cheaper price per head.
perhaps they can outsource to india and get a better deal.
better go ask the ISPs for their customer relations contractors phone No.
"we were a little over zealous in our efforts to <b>spy on your internet usage,/b> and we erroneously <b>retained thousands of customers' data which we then pimped </b> ignoring some relevant items in the <b>consent</b> process <b>like our need to obtain it</b>. These were quickly <b>deleted to cover our asses</b>. We will endeavour to make sure that <b>we don't get caught doing this</b> in the future."
What an uplifting comment. Sometimes I feel you are right. Well lets say I am fighting to make sure you are right. However we have seen so many ridiculasly wrong things done by coorporations and governments inspite of well informed protests that I worry.
We must stay latched onto Phorm like a mastif on a postmans buttocks until they finnally give up reading our mail and run away (appolgise to any postmen or mastifs reading this).
I emailed my MP with a letter about Jaquie Smiths stupid peodo email plan and the Phorm thing. He nolonger writes back because I am a nutter.
Lawks amighty! Where will it all end? Poor Phorm, having to re-write everything, everywhere. Including, Wikipedia.
May be best if Phorm's PR people pop round to my house now, and help me compose a quick reply to the letter I've received from my Member of Parliament, David Maclean, in response to my earlier email to him, seeking his help to stop Phorm because it's very, very naughty.
It now seems I've been guilty of certain factual inaccuracies. So my MP is seriously misinformed.
The thing is, none of this would've happened if Phorm had been allowed to intercept everything I do on the Internet. "Factual inaccuracies" would have been spotted and, no doubt, my email rewritten by Phorm so that it told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the Phorm.
No wonder though that BT is rushing to Phorm's Wiki rescue. BT's sales people have been chasing me for two weeks to renew my broadband contract, but I thought I'd let 'em stew. Anyway, I've now told the saleslady that Phorm is very, very, very bad (heck, that inaccuracy again) and BT is a disgusting turd on the carpet of British commerce. So I don't want BT anywhere near me because it's ugly and it smells.
I asked if she knew what I was talking about. 'Er, yes,' she said. 'We all know what Phorm is.' I didn't ask if she knew what a turd was; bad enough she has to work for one without having to publicly confess.
Reckon that's it then. Phorm's dead but not yet buried. BT and all the other ISP turds are being scooped up and binned by their subscribers.
Obviously, we can't be complacent about this -- we should stll be cancelling ISP contracts, still writing to our MPs -- but happily for us, actual physical labour is over:
In trying to rewrite Wiki, Phorm has shown that it's better at digging its own grave than any of us here.
It has been very encouraging to see the many ingenious ways that folks on here have suggested can be employed to derail the Phorm project. However, petitioning the Prime Minister's office (currently about 10k signatures) is unlikely to be fruitful unless you are a TV sleb like Jamie Oliver and the government can win some kudos by tossing a few millions at the problem to make it go away. This is different.
The government will seek to embrace this technology with the same feverish enthusiasm and ignorance that they displayed when they jumped on the database bandwagon. Phorm have invented the Perfect Trojan; they are no longer outside the city walls pissing in, now they are inside, urinating in your face. How could NuLabour not fall in love with that?
A cornerstone of government economic policy right from the get go has been 'light-touch regulation' which effectively means industry regulators are under funded, under motivated and promptly sidelined if they show the least sign of possessing a backbone. So not much hope there.
The jury is still out in relation to the legality of the BT/Phorm unauthorised spying operation involving 20,000 customers of the ISP. Don't hold your breath.
It isn't all bad news, however. Do a Google search for the word 'phorm' and you are rewarded with 420,000 hits, so somewhere the storm clouds are gathering. And that in my opinion defines the correct attack vector for dealing with this insidious technology. Phorm, or as it was phormerly known, 123Media, is a business that is based on delivering ads by means of stealth and subterfuge to ISP customers who have been psychologically profiled without their permission. Last time I checked Psychology was a branch of the medical profession but no doubt the appropriate ethics commitee has been suitably rePhormed to comply with the new ethical standards as per BT and its sinister new partner.
Strangely, for a company in the ads business, Phorm is something of a shrinking violet when it comes to making its presence known to potential victims. It prefers to do its business scuttling about in the dark corners far from the spotlight of publicity. The obvious question is, can we create a Perfect Storm of publicity that will overcome the Perfect Trojan and all those who profit from its doings? Yes we can.
The object of the exercise is to elevate the word Phorm to the same generic status as the word Google which is now included in modern dictionaries as a verb meaning 'to search'. Every communication, be it snail mail, e-mail, blog or forum posting should have the word Phorm dropped into it no matter how irrelevant it is to the main subject matter and obviously the connotation is not benign as in Google. You can have lots of Phun by indulging in a little punning.
British Telecom have already Phormed.
Virgin Media are believed to be Phorming.
Carphone Warehouse are understood to be better inPHormed than their two competitors.
Its called InPHormation Technology.
Get the word out.
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