back to article Home Office defends 'dangerously misleading' Phorm thumbs-up

The Home Office today defended advice it gave BT and Phorm that their "Webwise" agreement to track millions of broadband subscribers will probably be legal if consent is obtained. Meanwhile, it has emerged that neither BT nor Phorm sought any government advice on the wiretapping trials conducted in autumn 2006 and summer 2007 …


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  1. Tony Paulazzo
    Thumb Up

    This is so cool...

    >Foster's early day motion on the subject has now garnered 36 MPs' signatures, from all the major parties.<

    My local Labour MP has signed that! I got a second letter from her yesterday, detailing it. God, maybe democracy does work. When I first wrote to her I didn't even expect a reply, never mind a followup letter.

    So everyone, print off a letter and send it snail mail to your local MP, sometimes one man CAN make a difference.

    Still waiting for a reply from Gordon Brown though. Still, he's probably got his hands full, what with the collapsing (alarmist) / slowing (dreamist) economy - rising petrol and global food shortages, house prices crashing and the sullen British population looking for a scapegoat.

    Way to go El reg, keep the pressure up, it's even, finally, starting to appear on the BBC website.

  2. David Willis

    Lets be fair

    Ok so if I (and a group of my friends) followed Phormes MD 24/7 365 days a year, writing down details of every item he purchased and everything he looked at in the shops he would have no problems?

  3. Andy ORourke

    The sooner......

    this is knocked on the head the better. I know the ISP's need to make more money, I know advertising is an inevitable part of the internet experience but I don’t believe anyone has the right to 'profile' my habits. Not because I'm a terrorist or a kiddie fiddler it's just not right.

    If they want to profile people and advertise to them then only those who opt into the system should have their traffic sent through the Phorm stuff, everyone else should just have a straight internet connection.

    On the subject of the notice shown to users I think it should be along the lines of:

    "Dear customer, we are about to start intercepting ALL of your internet traffic, profiling your browsing habits and then we can give you better quality targeted advertising. We used to be spyware vendors but our team of Russian programmers have given all that up now. We promise not to steal any of your usernames or passwords or snoop on your bank details (honest, you can trust us)"

    Bye Bye Phorm, Phuck right off.

  4. The Other Steve

    That's that sorted then

    "BT has refused The Register an interview regarding its actions over Phorm/Webwise. ®"

    I was just thinking to myself this morning that the first time BT or Phorm came back with a simple "No comment", we would know that they had finally realised they were completely and utterly fucked.

    I can't wait to what spin they do come up with in response to the excellent FIPR brief. After they've consulted with their legal people, no doubt.

    Bad luck BT. You blinked.

  5. Matt Siddall


    Let's face it, they're guilty as sin.

    Even if it does turn out that the program would be legal with consent, they definitely didn't have consent for their trials, so the trials were not legal. They illegally handed over personal information on tens of thousands of people to a company which until now was well known only for their delightful line in adware.

    BT can claim what they like. They handed private information over to an untrustworthy source (BT might trust Phorm, but I sure as hell don't). I don't understand why there hasn't been more of an uproar. Imagine if the Royal Mail decided to make a bit of extra cash by seeking out the people who send the random faxes offering secret auctions and prescription drugs to random people's fax machines and letting them go through everyone's mail to see who might be interested in their products.

    As far as I can see, all that remains to be determined is how big a fine and how grovelling an apology BT should have to face...

  6. 3x2

    Yes but ..

    <..>Ultimately it is a free commercial market and providers of goods and services need only ensure they are compliant with relevant legislation.<...>

    We simply want to know who exactly is going to step up when they are clearly not compliant.

  7. Herby

    Wiretapping, still.

    Would anyone allow telephone conversations to be "recorded" with "no personally identifying information"?

    I didn't think so!

  8. Hate2Register

    BT EULA change would legitimise Phorm?

    Just wondering .. if BT changes their EULA to make customers agree to the Phorm factor, then it's all legit?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Thanks el-reg.

    This discussion needs to be kept alive with small stories and comments with regular intervals. There are far too many interested parties who would just like this story to go away so they can pursue their own specialist interest in 'sand-box mode' without interference of some 'annoying' democratically founded 'rights'.

  10. Neil Greatorex

    What is the stance of OFCOM? anyone heard?

    Comments from them have been noticably lacking.

    Isn't their primary role the regulation of the telecomms operators?

    Mine now has "Phuck orf Phorm" tastefully picked out in Rhinestones :-)

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Let he who is without sin

    "...not opposed to a (sic) ISP tracking..."

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consumer/Public protection ? It is all an illusion !!

    I have been through my own personal crusade trying to get justice, including from the Courts, the ICO, the Law Society etc etc and I can tell you that I came up blank. I knew then myself that the way this Country/Society works is that the Government basically hoodwinks Joe Public into believing that their tax monies have provided an excellent protection for them in the shape of places like the ICO, the Court system,

    the OFT and others, but the fact of the matter is that this is all BS ,and at the end of the day there is no justice, there is no protection from misuse of your data and there is no remedy for anyone. What the Government relies on to get away with this illusion is that 99.9% of Joe Public will never need such services,remedies or protection and it is only when the few try that they realise that there is nothing.

    Welcome to the truth BT consumers, who now realise this fact.

  13. Steve Browne


    I would have thought that BT would have given up by now instead of sticking with their stubborn ways. Perhaps if web sites were to insert a script to check the domain of their visitors and refuse to serve pages to BT customers. This would destroy BT retail as an ISP and serve as a lesson to malware providers that people are not prepared to be spied upon for someone else's commercial advantage.

    I doubt it would take very much to turn VM into scrap paper either. Certainly companies like Tiscali are in financial difficulty and would disappear when their users can no longer access web sites.

    Word of advice for BT et al, when you are in a hole, stop digging!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    A check list for the BT Board of Directors

    Honestly, on a scale of 1/10 how well do you think you've handled this ill fated phorm trial?

    (lifted directly from

    Board Responsibilities

    The BT Group plc Board is ultimately responsible for the strategy and overseeing the performance of the BT Group. Its focus is:




    Growing shareholder value

    Oversight and control

    Corporate governance

    In support of this focus the following matters are reserved for the Board to approve or monitor:

    Setting Direction

    Vision, Mission, Values, Ethics and Business Practice


    Strategic Plans, as proposed by the Operating Committee

    Group Annual Budget

    Capital Expenditure and Investments budgets and any changes which result in aggregate expenditure or aggregate outstanding commitments being exceeded

    Capital expenditure projects over £100m

    Investments (i.e. acquisitions, disposals including assets or business activities, outsourcing arrangements) with a consideration/value over £100m (together with additional funding if such additional funding would result in the revised aggregate additional funding being over £100m since the previous funding authority from the Board) or where of major strategic importance or on the request of the CEO or Finance Director

    Customer contracts, bids and tenders of major strategic importance or which are referred at the discretion of the CEO

    Proposals involving another company acquiring any interest in BT Group plc

    Any issues of major strategic importance to the Group


    Financing Policy and Annual Financing Programme

    External financing by issue of equity or rights to equity including quoted debt securities by BT Group plc or any subsidiary

    Pensions policy, funding and material matters in relation to accounting reporting and industrial/employee relations

    Appointment of the Pension Fund Trustees and of Hermes

    Appointment, removal and remuneration of external auditors for BT Group plc

    Appointment or removal of Directors and the Secretary

    Oversight and Control

    Operating and financial performance

    Major changes to accounting practices

    Internal controls

    Compliance (securities, legal and regulatory)

    Major public policy issues including matters which would have a significant impact on the Group's reputation

    Share Dealing Code compliance

    Policy for Directors' & Officers' insurance and indemnity

    Political donations policy

    Powers reserved to senior management

    Composition and terms of reference of Board Committees

    Stakeholder relationships

    Necessary shareholder communications, including e.g. Annual Report

    New employee share schemes and major changes to existing schemes other than those which do not require shareholder approval

    Major changes to pension provision and pensions funding

    Community Support policy

    accountability is a wonderful thing.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    "In a statement, the Home Office emphasised that the note should not be taken as gospel by anyone. It said: "We can't comment on the legal position of targeted online advertising services. It is up for [sic] the courts to interpret the law."

    Then what is the point of issuing guidance. Shame on

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical Government mismanagement

    I have read the open letter by Nicholas Bohm and how the (Home Office) Government can dismiss it is beyond me!

    Maybe the document is too complicated for Jacqui Smith just like the sums for the 10percent tax rate.

    It's a disgrace that they can dismiss such a well informed and well prepared document so easily.

    Maybe we should emigrate to Zimbabwe, a place where a Government acts on the law of the land far more honestly in comparison.

    How does it go ? Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. or maybe: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

  17. Mo

    I've said it previously…

    But most of these articles seem to be missing the big technical issue with Phorm: no matter what BT and Phorm say, there is actually NO way to opt out. Your browser _will not_ send the “opt out” cookie to anything except the host it was issued by (i.e., Phorm's ad-serving network), which means whilst the cookie will tell Phorm not to USE your personal information when serving adverts, it will still be collected by the WebWise intercept device and passed on for collection—the information provided by BT, Phorm, et al, suggests that the intercept host itself has no mechanism to honour your opt-out request.

    Obviously, if it's the case that BT and Phorm have lied to us (shock! horror!) and the opt-out mechanism is something other than via a cookie, then it's possible that you can opt out, but if it really is just a cookie, your information will be collected, stored, collated and filed, whether you consent or not.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    What if I use two browsers

    Just had a thought. I use both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Will I have to Opt out twice?

    Also, the way I see it Phorm have to break the law by intercepting my data first and then ask me do I want to Opt out or in?

    If I opt out (wont everybody?) my data still gets intercepted but they kindly(sic) don't use the data they have already profiled.

    This is a Joke - Government get a grip!

  19. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Beaten Dockets

    "We welcome companies sharing commercially sensitive ideas and proposals with us in confidence if that means public safety considerations and legal obligation [sic] can be taken into account, where appropriate, in the conception of new products and services. " ..... Unfortunately, in confidence is invariably abused to ensure more ......private considerations than public service as Government has evolved/been subverted to Private Sector Profit Factoring to the Detriment of Excellence of Service. And as Human Resources and Perceptions Managers, they are somewhat unnecessary as they have no knowledge of popular trends/MetaDatamined information/Phorm.

  20. Werner McGoole

    When is a defence not a defence?

    Surely the Home Office were judiciously defending the fact that they gave advice to Phorm, not the actual content of that advice. You always have to read civil servants' prose very carefully!

    I'd say that shows they now know their advice was wrong. They can't say so, however, because that would (a) show them in a bad light, (b) get Phorm/BT on their backs and (c) discourage others from seeking their informal advice in future.

    They have, however, accepted that the matter can only be decided by the courts. Maybe they could advise on how that could be brought about since that is clearly now the focus of the campaign. It is not acceptable that we have laws to protect the public if there is no means of enforcing them.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    The fact remains ...

    You CANNOT sign away your rights even if you want to. For example, it takes an act of parliament to renounce a title and become just plain Mr. It actually requires a new law to be written saying you can do it.

    You cannot call something legal just because some dumbo "opts in" -- murder is still illegal even if I WANT someone to murder me.

    Using me as a slave is STILL ILLEGAL even if I choose to waive my rights as a free citizen.

    Wire tapping (because phorm is nothing else) IS ILLEGAL EVEN IF I WANT TO BE WIRE TAPPED.

    Are the mindless fucking dullards who run this excuse for a democracy too in-bred to read existing legal prior art and get proper legally qualified people (judges) to STATE, once and for all, IT IS IRRELEVANT WHAT THE HOME OFFICE “THINKS” OR LAYS CLAIM TO THINK -- PHUCKING PHORM IS NOT LEGAL.

  22. MYOFB

    Is this APT?? . . .

    . . . You tell me!! . . .

    All I ask is for you to read through to the end and answer THE QUESTIONS!!

    Morpheus: I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like Alice. Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

    Neo: You could say that.

    Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he's expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?

    Neo: No.

    Morpheus: Why not?

    Neo: 'Cause I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.

    Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind -- driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

    Neo: The Matrix?

    Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?

    (Neo nods his head.)

    Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

    Neo: What truth?

    Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.

    (In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)

    Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (a red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.

    (Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water).

    Q: Did UK Gov, ICO, Ofcom, BT, Phorm, VM, CPW and all other 'Authorative' contributors, take the Blue pill or the Red pill??

    My answer: They took the Red pill to . . . 'See how deep the rabbit hole goes' . . . Into our pockets via taxes. Into our privacy via our browsing history and into our lives via making the majority feel Un-PC for not toe-ing the line!!

    Q: Which colour pill do all the above want you to take?

    My answer: The Blue pill of course!! Remember . . . "You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." . . . True, true, so long as THEY control your beliefs!!

    Q: So which pill did YOU take??!!

    My answer: I didn't take either one . . . I woke up to reality long before The Matrix could get it's claws in to me and I watched you all slowly descend into it's clutches.

    Which is a pity really because before you took either colour of pill, you were truly great people, who had clarity of thought and a topnotch sense of Right & Wrong.


    Depends on which colour pill you want to swallow!!

    Red, Blue or none . . . They are all bitter ones!!

  23. Peter White

    cookies and cr@p

    two points

    one is of cookies, for every website you visit phorm will put a cookie addressed from that site with your ID (random number) on iton your pc, it does this by masqarading as the website you are visiting so as to get your browser to accept it and not treat it as a third party cookie which most block, this blow out the water any site that has a privacy policy that says "we don't drop cookies" as you will have one from them dated and time when you visited their site BUT with your phorm id on it

    the other is the webwise antiphishing filter, this is what is going to be used to pursuad users to sign upas no one would sign up for a purely edvertising service.

    the anti-phishing filter is the same as the one built into most current browsers and if not it is in your internet security software, and if you are stupid enough to not have either you deserve phorm

    nuf said

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting read...

    An up-to-date pitch to investors about Phorm. Covers their thoughts on commercial prospects, competitors, PR, etc.

  25. David Pollard

    Power to the FIPR's elbow

    Nicholas Bohm and colleagues have produced a paper covering the complex details that is straightforward and makes both the legal and technical aspects comprehensible.

    Arguably I'm biased by my concerns about the issue of profiling, but it was a delight to read.

  26. Mat

    @ Matt Sidall

    -------------------- Snip --------------------

    As far as I can see, all that remains to be determined is how big a fine and how grovelling an apology BT should have to face...

    -------------------- End --------------------

    Nope - Don't fine them! That cost will only be passed on to the innocent consumer.

    Jail time for the executives concerned is the only way.

  27. Graham Wood


    That's part of the problem - they think it is, and a lot of us think it isn't.

    Under the terms of the RIPA, interception of the communication for reasons other than the provision of the servcie requires the agreement from both sides.

    Therefore since I do NOT give Phorm/ISP permission to monitor access to my websites, if anyone on an intercepted connection browses my sites then the act is broken.

    The problem with the "real" opt in option is that at that point it's unclear as to whether the person who is browsing is breaking the law rather than Phorm - since Phorm can claim they were given permission. However, this is based on the assumption that Phorm's "assumed permission" from websites is a valid assumption - another point that people do not agree with. I also believe that if we make sure to tell them that our servers are NOT a fair target, they cannot then act on the permission from the user - which should require them to put in blacklists/whitelists for which sites they can monitor. Then all we need to do is get enough sites like google to tell them to get lost, and their product becomes worthless.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Interesting read...

    Nicholas Bohm has since blown apart a lot of the legality claims contained in that particular article within that financial PDF you reference. Also the Home Office claims no longer apply. I bet the writers wish they had left it a week later before recomending. I think ultimately there will be a lot of out of pocket investors. I also suspect that Kent ultimately will wish he had left UK alone and stuck with the more relaxed American market.

    @Werner McGoole. I think you may have a very good point. The first Phorm legal court case will blow Phorm out of the water and if the ISP's continue with their Webwise produce I suspect a few of the directors could have an enforced 'holiday' from their families when the full force of the law is finally applied.

    Incidentally, I strongly suspect VM among others have also trialled

    illegally. Come on someone - blow the whistle!

  29. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    There's that phrase again...

    "probably be legal if consent is obtained"

    Yo! Home Office!



    If PROBABLY is the best you can do, then you should PROBABLY investigate properly.

    Then again, this technology is PROBABLY what YOU want, but PROBABLY don't have the brassneck to come straight out with.

    Bet I'm PROBABLY right.

    (looking out for the BH's which are PROBABLY circling!)

  30. Dan White

    @Greg Fleming

    Top rant mate, but actually wire tapping *is* perfectly legal if you agree to it. Never phoned a call centre and heard, "Calls are recorded for training purposes"?

    As long as *all* parties consent, you can record a telephone call, but that's the central argument here isn't it. I would *not* consent to Phorm, so they can FRO :-)

  31. Florence Stanfield

    Shares in BT

    Found out last night my mother still has shares in BT she is in her 80s so can't get to AGM's anymore and has been allowing the chair to use her votes.. I have asked her if I can represent her at the n ext AGM :D Is this allowed?

    Can I ask questions if I go and get answers?

    this could be interesting...

  32. Iain

    Stop me if i'm wrong...

    but if the answer is "let the courts sort it out" surely that means the government is condoning an potentially illegal activity just to see if it is illegal or not. Lets examine that logic for a minute.

    The way I see it is that what the government is saying (leading by example) is that if I want to find out if something is illegal is to do it, and see if I get convicted. Now, where's that axe?

    It has to be the government's responsibility to give a definitive answer when asked a question like that, and if a minister does not feel legally qualified to produce an answer there are whole teams of lawyers and judges who examine legal issues day in and day out. Cop. Out.

    Mine's the one with the one-way ticket to Australia in the pocket.

  33. Peter Fielden-Weston
    Paris Hilton

    One thing

    I've seen a few times is that express permission needs to be obtained from BOTH sides of the connection. Surely that means the user AND the website.

    How is anyone going to get permission from all of the websites for Phorm type profiling to be legal in the UK?

    As I see it, if my ISA introduces Phorm I merely need to visit a UK website (which expressly denies this permission) from a UK based PC using a UK based ISP, to make their entire system either illegal or unmanageable. What would be the monetary cost of checking whether a website gave *express permission* (not merely opted in by default) or *expressly denied* permission?

    So, those El Reg readers who run websites, how about putting in a paragraph in your terms & conditions expressly denying the use of pages served by your website in any form of profiling?

    I have already done this on my site, and am waiting for my ISP to introduce Phorm (or it's successor.)

  34. Mark


    So Phorm are upset because FIPR are 'pushing their own agenda'.

    Given FIPR exists to advise on Internet Privacy , what other agenda , other than pointing out illegal interceptions, should they be following?

    or does kent mean 'infamy , infamy -- they've all got it in for me' .

    One suspects the latest 'statement' from phorm is a very good indicator as to how worried they currently are.

    Attacking the motives behind the FIPR release rather than addressing the concerns within it.

    Although that appears to be Kent's modus operandi in recent times.

  35. Man Outraged

    @Update from Phorm

    "FIPR is abusing its influence and promoting its own agenda by encouraging a frivolous debate ... rather than undermine the online privacy debate and block technological progress."

    Most of the people I meet fighting Phorm are the very technologists progressing the internet today.

    In fact nearly every engineer I meet on a site visit brings up the subject of Phorm, without prompting, and none has had a good word to say about the underlying technology or the moral boundary being transgressed.

    When will Phorm PR learn not to treat those who know more than them about the internet like idiots (to put it politely).

  36. Sceptical Bastard

    Data protection?

    Regarding the Home Office and its 'advice', firstly I suggest that they consult the ICO before spouting off in future; secondly, when their 'advice' proves to be wrong, I wish they'd have the good grace to admit it without all the weasel words and wriggling.

    But with a lamer like Jacqui Smug in charge, their reaction now should be no surprise.

    Turning to the data protection issue, as I understand it, surely BT is a 'data controller' as defined by The Data Protection Act? As such, it must be on the Commissioner's register of data controllers?

    If BT *is* a data controller as defined by the Act, then it must comply with the principles of data protection set out in the Data Protection Act.

    Unless I've got it wrong, any information held by a data controller MUST BE:

    * fairly and lawfully processed;

    * processed only for the specified purpose;

    * relevant and not excessive;

    * accurate and, where necessary, updated;

    * processed with regard to your rights;

    * held securely; and

    * deleted immediately upon your written request

    Information must NOT BE:

    * held for longer than necessary;

    * processed by any other organisation;

    * revealed to or shared with any other organisation;

    * transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area;

    * sold to any other organisation for commercial gain or other reasons.

    From that, it would appear that BT data pimping to Phorm contravenes several principles under the Data Protection Act, let alone being illegal under RIPA.

    Once again, our thanks are due to El Reg for helping to keep this story in the public eye.

    Phuck Phorm - may its share price continue to phall.

  37. The Other Steve

    @Dan White

    "Never phoned a call centre and heard, "Calls are recorded for training purposes"

    AFAIK that's different, as a) the call centre is the recipient, and b)they are authorised to record calls for quality purposes under RIPA (Can't recall the section number off the top of my head).

    In fact, AIUI they don't even have to tell you. They certainly don't have to gain consent, and if they did, a recording telling you that they were going to do it would not be sufficient (in theory, although the way things are looking at the moment, who can be sure)

  38. Steve

    Re: Shares in BT

    Why not just by a share in Phorm - around £15 at the moment - and go to their AGM?

    In fact, why not get a couple of hundred people to buy one share each, turn up at the company and just kick off?

  39. bobbles31

    Interesting read...

    Page 5

    Low Technology Risk – For a technology start-up company, we judge the technology

    risks themselves to be unusually low. First, the management team’s own technical

    credentials are immensely strong, with recent highly relevant experience in the

    adware market, via Phorm’s predecessor company, 121 Media, with a highly capable

    software development team in Russia, and with senior technologists who formerly

    held comparable positions within BT and Microsoft, amongst others. Second, the

    development of the concept and technology has been undertaken over seven years.

    And third, the launch customers – BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media – have

    also undergone extensive trialling of the technology, and none are in the business of

    taking unnecessary risks on new technology adoption.

    Technology risk is low…

    Now correct me if I am wrong, but this paragraph is misleading investors in a HUGE way. BT, Carphone and Virgin are not customers, they are suppliers. Phorm will be paying BT £85 million per year for the profiling data. Now thats a lot of clicks to sell to pay for that data. Presumably the cost is constant as the data has to be collected in order for it to be used. If no one clicks on an OIX advert then Phorm are out of pocket to the tune of £85million.

    Maybe this should be the line used when discussing Phorm with investment types. Do they have the CUSTOMER base to be able to afford to pay their suppliers.

  40. Michael

    @update from Phorm

    translation: "...and I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you pesky kids."

  41. FoolD
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Stop me if i'm wrong...

    I rather think (after reading the Phorm pdf, linked to by AC above) it's more a case of the government are allowing this to go ahead and *if* the profiling is indeed found to be illegal they will simply 'tweak' the offending bits of the law so it isn't anymore.

    Make no mistakes - the Government want this technology. They may already have the ability to remotely mirror/monitor and even block (at DNS level) web traffic but they will be drooling over the possibilities of exploiting Phorm's technology - to do this more directly (and maybe even more discreetly, page by page) at the ISP level.

    The opt-in/out of receiving targeted Ads is irrelevant - they will have the ability to not only monitor all traffic but also to modify/block it at the gateway (whether opted in or out of Ads and irrespective of using alternate DNS lookups like OpenDNS or even direct IP).

    This is what makes the technology so dangerous and also so worrying.

  42. Martin

    @Florence - BT shares

    Just buy one single share, then you are entitled to attend the AGM and ask what questions you like. Then you don't have to worry about representing your granny.

    Share price is 217.75p. (It'll cost you about fifteen quid in dealing charges, though.)

  43. bobbles31

    A title is required.

    Also from the Interesting read article:

    Having made this 75% payment to the publisher, the retained 25% portion represents

    Phorm’s net revenues. There should be no working capital issue, as Phorm is likely to

    pay out to the ISP only once the advertisers have settled their invoice, and Phorm has

    carried out whatever reconciliation process is necessary.

    This suggests that form will only be paying the ISPs for profiles that generate clicks. do they know which profiles to pay for as they claim that the data is anonymised?

    This is also going to lead to a situation whereby the ISPs wish to know which users are the most profitable vs those that just cruise the internet. This will help them to make decisions such as what discount to offer browsers when they threaten to leave an ISP.

  44. Maurice Shakeshaft

    The major reason the ICO wont press for a prosecution is...

    the government & civil service want Phorm and companion services introduced. If the “powers that be” can sequester or gain access to even aggregate browsing data then they have something better than the best focus group info. There is no incentive for them to oppose, investigate or prosecute. WGAF about individual anonymity, freedom & responsibility in government in the present climate? We are all potential criminals and must be monitorable for our and their good. I’m not paranoid and I don’t (recall) having anything significant to hide but that is not the point. We aren’t supposed to be living in East Germany in the 60s & 70s or China anytime. I’ve not been a good citizen and paid my taxes to have an 3rd party spy on my activities - even with my consent. Virgin Media, and the rest, be well advised – it will “end in tears before bed time” if you roll out this invasive technology so do something better to raise revenue before it’s too late.

  45. A Bee

    Presumed Consent

    Amongst many others, there is an interesting difference between the level of detail between the Home Office assessment and Bohm's with respect to the presumed consent of Webmasters to access by Phorm.

    The Home Office makes the assumption that "because it's on the web, then a search engine can get to it, therefore it's open to anyone, including Phorm".

    As Bohm points out, that ain't so. In common with many others, my web site has some private areas. The private areas do not have links from anywhere else on the web, so search engines cannot find them. However, because Phorm follows the user, not a spider, if I've told anyone how to get to the private area, then Phorm can follow them there - and it does not give me, as webmaster a way of preventing this (aside from restructuring the pages by encryiption).

    Phorm is presuming a consent which I do not grant!

  46. Mark

    Clearly rattled

    Phorm's response -and BT's 'no comment' suggests they're getting a little rattled. Gone is Kent's chummy "we'd love to meet and chat to you about how much good we're doing humanity" and it's in with the more traditional swill gobblers defence of "legitimate business". It evidently feels a little different when your "legitimate" victims aren't just taking their "privacy enhancing" e-commerce rogering with a grimace and a mild whimper, but actually have the temerity to hit back.

    There's a good deal of pleasure in watching that share value head to the depths where it belongs. Better polish up yer MiG-25s mate, you might yet need them again to earn a crust.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shame The Law Of The Land Says Phorm Is Illegal...

    So ignoring the challenges and questions hasn't worked for Phorm, they're now slagging off everyone they can find who opposes them.

    Bottom line is that the law of the land says that Phorm is illegal. Debates about legality cannot be frivolous. Of course, Phorm could have aided that particular discussion by publishing the full legal opinon they claim to have received and the details of the QC who provided it. But they haven't.

    In the face of a rightful kicking by the FIPR the Home Office has done the only thing it could under the circumstances and said their [misleading and incomplete according to FIPR] "advice" has no legal status.

    Phorm's reaction suggests that this advice was actually the only legal opinon they had. Can they prove otherwise?

    FIPR is standing up for the rights of the internet consumer under the law of the land. That is not abusing its influence. Spreading misinformation, "overzealous" PR, abusive staff and failing to be open and honest in response to questions is abusing your influence.

    "We don't like something so we'll change the law to allow it" is the kind of thing one might expect to see in Zimbabwe.

    There's unedited, spin free footage of the recent public meeting at where you can see Kent fail to offer a convincing response on any of the issues raised by Dr Richard Clayton and Alexander Hanff.

  48. Mike Crawshaw

    Re Phorm's response...

    "That would help people to make valid informed choices about the services they want to use."

    And my valid, informed choice is that I want nothing to do with their illegal, immoral scumware.

    How the fuck can they bang on about people making "informed choices" when they lie through their teeth about what their crapware does and try to shout down anyone who says different??

  49. 3x2

    frivolous debate

    Consumer and legal details aside for the moment what is Phorm's proposition?

    They want to insert themselves directly into someone else's value chain and tap off whatever they want in order to build a business. Remind me again, what is the biological term for an organism acting in this way?

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Government prototype

    I'm sure HMG is delighted that, as so often, private enterprise is breaking the trail for them to follow. When ministers contemplate Phorm, I imagine the only reaction they feel is deep envy.

  51. StillNoCouch

    Just for Giggles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  52. The Other Steve

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

    Yes, it is this :

    [begin quote]


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

    Kind regards

    Sara Meyer

    Director Secretariat Services

    Co-ordinator FOIA and DPA Compliance

    [end quote]

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

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

  53. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    A Dawning Realisation.

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

  54. Spleen

    Re the AGM

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

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

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

  55. David
    Paris Hilton

    Duckin' and Weavin'

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

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

    Paris, coz not even she could swallow all these whoppers

  56. Tony Gosling
    Thumb Down

    My websites do not consent

    What a spineless and incompetent government and regulator we have.

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

  57. alistair millington

    hhmmmm... smells like something.

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

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


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

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


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

    @David Willis

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

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

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

    Sounds more like it then.

  58. Alexander Hanff


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

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

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

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

    Alexander Hanff

  59. Peter White

    re the charles stanley article

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

    discounts OR giving better speeds???

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

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

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

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

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

  60. Alan Parsons

    amfm sponsorship and firefox plugin

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

  61. Jon

    They should go to jail

    > As far as I can see, all that remains to be determined is how big a fine and how grovelling an apology BT should have to face...

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

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

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

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


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

  63. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Silliness

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

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

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

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

  64. Anonymous Coward

    Re: My websites do not consent

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

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep it up Kent - Phorm is so ratttled

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

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

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

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


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

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

    Without advertisements, Phorm is stuffed.

  67. FoolD

    Re: Silliness

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

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

  68. Dan

    from paragraph one

    of the Interesting Read pdf:

    "by exploiting the behavioural data".

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

  69. Matthew
    Black Helicopters


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

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

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

  70. John Murgatroyd

    Jail, isn't that for crooks ?

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

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

    Home office ? (gov joke shop)

    Police (as per above)

    Ofcom (spelt O£COM)

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

    Ineffective, inefficient and basically morally corrupt.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Silliness

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

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

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

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

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

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    How big is an advert?

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

    I do NOT want to switch to Virgin Media.

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

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


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

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

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

  73. Alexander Hanff

    Re: Silliness

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


  74. dervheid

    Since when...

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

    Dear Phorm.

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










  75. Alexander Hanff

    re: Since when

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

  76. A Bee

    Re: Just for Giggles

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

    I believe them.

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

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

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

  77. Alex
    IT Angle

    Question (on the silliness subject)

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

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

  78. Peter White
    Thumb Up


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

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

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

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

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

    no OIX adverts = no money = no phorm

  79. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters


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

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

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

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

  80. j.m.

    corporate espionage

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

  81. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    Re:Question (on the silliness subject)

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

    Indeed they are.

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

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

  82. Alexander Hanff


    And Kent thought I was paranoid?

  83. FoolD
    IT Angle


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

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

  84. Peter White


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

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

    this stuff is just ripe for monty python

    said if it was not so serious

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


  85. Anonymous Coward

    Interception may be justified....but

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

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

  86. Sir Runcible Spoon

    re: Paranoia

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

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

  87. Eponymous Cowherd


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

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Hidden Agenda by the Home Office

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

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

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

  89. Anonymous Coward

    Stopping phorm

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

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

    'Please take note.

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

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

    BT next!

  90. Alex

    My answer (so far)

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

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

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

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

  91. Peter White

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

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

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

    :P :P :P

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


  92. Ash

    User Agent

    Set it to:



  93. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re Silliness/Paranoia

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

  94. Anonymous Coward

    Roll on the encrypted Internet

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

  95. Anonymous Coward

    @ Peter W - not cheap

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

  96. Ross Ryles

    Re: User Agent

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

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

  97. The Other Steve

    Re: Re: User Agent

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

    Very true. I currently have mine set to :

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

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

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Principle must be worth a few £ a month surely ?

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

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

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I feel sorry for Kent, Elephants never forget

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

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

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

    Paris, because she could be wiping a crocodile tear!

  100. James


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

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

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

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT promise to exclude any sites you send them...

    .... no honestly...

    "A lot more information regarding the technology is available online via

    our website (quoted in previous correspondence) or via Phorm (at or The latter in particular provides more

    information about the Open Internet Exchange and how website owners

    (large and small) can benefit from this service.

    As mentioned previously the Webwise system doesn't handle any HTTPS

    connections as such traffic is, by its nature, private. For HTTP traffic,

    we assume that if a website wishes to be found by the public through

    being profiled by major search engines (Google), then the site is in the

    public domain and therefore as long as we have consent from the

    requester of the page, we are permitted to profile the site.

    However we note that you have specifically requested that your own

    website(s) should be excluded. Please can you provide me with the url(s)

    of your website(s), together with confirmation that you are the

    website(s) owner, and we will honour your request to exclude your website(s)

    from profiling within the BT Webwise system.

    We believe this approach is reasonable and is supported by the advice

    we have received. If I require any further information from you (aside

    from the url) then rest assured I will let you know prior to

    commencement of our trial.


    I still think their arrogance about "you are searchable so we can rape your page" is disgusting.

  102. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT VM Talk Talk and others

    This must be such a PR disaster for you. Now all the proper legal analysis has been done, you must realise now you are on a hiding to nothing. I am sure you had blinkers on at the start of all this, but there can be no excuses now.

    Get out while you can and suffer the consequences now. They can only get worse as you can not win.

  103. John Murgatroyd

    Or can we link to this ...

    Now, where would they find out what we look for on the web....

  104. Pete Hunt

    Re: Stopping Phorm

    Did everybody try to send BT a message?

    "" is currently unavailable at 00:49 GMT

  105. Tony Paulazzo

    No title.

    >For HTTP traffic, we assume that if a website wishes to be found by the public through being profiled by major search engines (Google), then the site is in the

    public domain and therefore as long as we have consent from the requester of the page, we are permitted to profile the site.<

    This is simply not true, I asked Google to profile my website as they are the most popular search engine, and if people want to find my company they can. But my website does not offer advertising, so why would I want an adware company profiling my website as well as my surfing?

    I may have got this wrong, but I thought Phorm would only be interested in websites / advertisers who were in the OIX platform, I mean, they wouldn't redirect users to my site as there would be no money in it for them, so why profile it?

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Principle must be worth a few £ a month surely ?

    I hear a lot of talk like this, and I don't get it. If you "leave BT and get another ISP" BT still supply a wire from your computer to the local exchange, unless you move to cable or mobile. If you're still wired up to BT and still paying them line rental, you're going to get phormed irrespective of who your ISP is, no?

    Had to laugh at phorm saying FIPR are "encouraging a frivolous debate". I thought they were accusing phorm and BT of illegal interception, fraud and unlawful processing!

    You can sign up to FIPR at, it's £25.

  107. Richard Silver badge

    "Being profiled by major search engines..."

    This is the most ridiculous assertion yet, for the following reasons:

    Lets assume you are a website owner:

    1) You own a website advertising your spoon-supplying business.

    You obviously want Google and other search engines to index this site so that people looking for spoons will find your site, and hopefully buy your wares.

    You're also advertising in Spoon Monthly magazine and other offline media.

    However, if a user is profiled as visiting your site, then Phorm immediately know to add this user to their list of "People interested in spoons", and as soon as they navigate away from your site they will receive advertisements for OTHER SPOON SELLERS.

    This is clearly a problem for your business - the list of people interested in your spoons is commercially sensitive data, and thus shouldn't be distributed.

    This is different to Google et al, as Google can only know a visitors search term(s), and the link(s) they clicked to exit Google websites. They cannot know if the visitor used an alternative search engine or went directly to your site.

    2) You have a privacy policy stating "We do not set any cookies"

    A user visits your site, and then discovers that a cookie is being set. They don't know that it wasn't actually your server that set the cookie, but it was a Phorm cookie.

    You lose business and receive complaints due to this apparent breach of your privacy policy. Dependant on local laws, you may even be sued for breach of implied contract.

  108. Eponymous Cowherd

    @ Tony Paulazzo

    ***"I may have got this wrong, but I thought Phorm would only be interested in websites / advertisers who were in the OIX platform, I mean, they wouldn't redirect users to my site as there would be no money in it for them, so why profile it?"***

    For non OIX eCommerce sites its a *very* big deal. If you run an eCommerce site that is not associted with Phorm, Phorm will still track its ISP victims to your site and track the products on your site that that Phorm victim views.

    Then, when that same Phorm victim visits a site that has OIX adverts he is likely to see adverts for the same kind of product that he was looking at on *your* site.

    In other words, if you are not a Phorm/OIX partner, Phorm/OIX can steal your customers merely by them looking at products on *your own* site!!!

  109. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you ask BT to opt-out your website...

    You just lend an air of legitimacy to that truly absurd approach. If/when asked about the website consent issue, they'll just use those examples to support the idea that the issue is being dealt with.

  110. Anonymous Coward

    Phorm counter-measures


    Edit your 'Hosts' file...

    Start --> Run --> Type:

    notepad "c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts"

    Add the following line to the bottom of the file:

    File --> Save

    File --> Exit

    (You may, at first, have go into the file's properties and temporary untick the 'Read-only' box).

    (HEY MOD! Have I got the first bit right, this time)?


    Visit and Download the Dephormation v1.6 Firefox Add On.

    "The Dephormation Add On ensures that your decision to permanently opt out of Phorm profiling cannot be undone in Firefox.

    Optionally, the Add On can also alert you to sites using Phorm/ Webwise/ OIX profile based advertising.

    With each page you view in your browser, a Phorm 'opt out' cookie is set automatically, and the Phorm UID cookie is randomised. Even if you delete all your cookies regularly".


    Visit and install TorBrowser, a Windows Browser Bundle (Containing Tor, Torbutton, Polipo, and Firefox).

  111. John Edwards
    Paris Hilton

    Florence Stansfield


    Your Mun is a BT shareholder. She has the right to appoint another to represent her at the AGM. Just have her sign the proxy card. GO FLO, give 'em hell.

    Oh, and I'd review your Mother's share portfolio.

    Paris 'cos she is smarter than the BT board

  112. Anonymous Coward

    'we assume'

    I'd love to see a defence based on that principle.

    I 'assume' that this was written by the marketing boys.

    Or more likely just a copy 'n' paste from Phorm.

    I'd also like to 'assume' a few things about how I could respond to this (involving some part-time debt collectors, a selection of clue-bats and the precision use of a 12lb clue-hammer) but I don't think my 'assumption' would provide any more of a defence than theirs.

    Bollocks to 'em all.

  113. David Pollard

    The FBI has plans ...

    Whether or not control freaks in UK government departments have plans to take advantage of the cheap and easy surveillance that ISP profiling could provide, the FBI certainly certainly does.

  114. steve hayes

    re: @Eponymous Cowherd

    I must admit this point never crossed my mind. Surely this Webwise interception totally undermines also some of the legal advertising business models by Google, MSN and Yahoo to name a few.

    Why are they not reacting more noisily? They have a very good UK legal case (watertight?) made out by Dr Richard Clayton and the FIPR who have done all of the hard technical and legal analysis work indirectly for them in their papers. Does Google, I wonder, already know of court action being prepared behind the scenes?

    Incidentally, who has the definitive list of OIX partners so that I can ensure that I never do any sort of business with them in any manner or form?

  115. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phorm system hurts client and server

    If you have a server and you are doing commerce, probably a good idea to block traffic, if Phorm gets compromised or goes rogue (it is Russian lead - not sure how easy it would be to pursue them legally in Russia) then the liability may fall to the site owner if customer information is compromised, and https may not save you, it looks like SSL will be cracked soon, and they will have all the historic data to sift through at their leisure.

    And be careful, there are probably quite a lot of BT shills out there, BT owns a number of web development / design houses, if you are considering having a site created best to check if they are owned by BT earlier than later, if BT thinks Phorm is ok who knows what else they may be sneaking into the code. They will probably try to house you on BT networks, which means blocking the traffic from BT will be even more awkward, and the wiretap will almost be immediate, for other people as well.

  116. Anonymous Coward

    Third world country tries to repress leading edge technology

    And the rest of the world is laughing at the UK. Look at Google - they store IP addresses and search words. And you gather into your self appointed posse and scream " oh yes, but I have a choice" well make your fcking choice and don't use BT or Virgin - go and pay more for an inferior service at a second rate ISP who wont subsidise his service with advertising. Go put your money where your mouth's are and stop wining!!

  117. Kieron McCann
    Thumb Up

    Losing their cool?

    "FIPR is abusing its influence and promoting its own agenda by encouraging a frivolous debate about the legality of a legitimate e-commerce business. Internet users would be better served if FIPR focused on the benefits of the online technologies available today rather than undermine the online privacy debate and block technological progress. That would help people to make valid informed choices about the services they want to use"

    BT refuse an interview with the Register.

    To me it looks like they're getting backed in to a corner, the slimy PR veneer is starting to wear thin. This is good news, the dirtier it gets, the more it will expose Kent and BT as being the money grubbing privacy pimptards that they are.

    Michael, the Scooby Doo reference is priceless

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "Third world country tries to repress leading edge technology..."

    A message from a phorm phanboy, or a phorm shill?

    What you say sounds too much like Kent's words to be coincidence, surely.

  119. Anonymous Coward

    Is the goverment making a big mistake with Phorm?

    Currently most of us use unencrypted data online for normal browsing. If the UK Government doesn't stop Phorm soon, seventy five percent of us probably will be using the likes of hushmail, anonymous proxies (Tor, Jap) as the norm and https websites will become become the new standard of the future.

    Is that what they want? I doubt it, but it certainly is not joined up thinking on their part!

  120. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My very thoughts when I read the comment. Hello Kent!

  121. kosmos

    Re: Third world country tries to repress leading edge technology

    "And the rest of the world is laughing at the UK. Look at Google - they store IP addresses and search words. And you gather into your self appointed posse and scream " oh yes, but I have a choice" well make your fcking choice and don't use BT or Virgin - go and pay more for an inferior service at a second rate ISP who wont subsidise his service with advertising. Go put your money where your mouth's are and stop wining!"

    Leading Edge technology, in the quiet words of the virgin mary 'Come again?' Agregating http traffic so it passes through an analysis system is leading edge technology? Give me a break, Phorm aren't the first with a wretched idea like this, they wont be the last. 'Leading edge' implies something new, all Phorm are doing are taking existing technologies and techniques and merging them into a product thats been done before, so give us all a break with that leading edge crap.

    You must also be a dolt if you dont understand the difference between Google and Phorm. The difference between Google and Phorm is that I may chose to use Google, but maybe I wont. Not every page I visit that is displayed in my web browser is processed by Google. But with Phorm's apporach they all will be processed by Phorm. So not only will I have to put up with Google, I'd have to put up with Phorm as well, how does this improve my situation when I DECIDE to use Google (this is hardly a sales pitch). If Im opted in to Phorm my pages will be mangled with ads; if opted out they will still be intercepted, they allegedly wont do anything with the intercepted data though (yeah right).

    But if you want your personal browsing data to be profiled, data mined and exploited for the financial gain of others, be my guest I hope it works out for you. When you hand your private affairs to someone else for their financial exploitation what do you think they will do with it? Is the only way to grow the business, to further exploit what you have given?

    Oh but thats right Phorm are audited. Yeah so is every other business, and any IT professional can tell you exactly how useless auditing an IT system really is, because it can be changed at will at any time. Audited or not, and then what? What if the security protecting the central agregate is crap? What if someone breaks into it? Are you going to tell me that its not a juicy target for an attack?

  122. Steen Hive


    "well make your fcking choice and don't use BT or Virgin - go and pay more for an inferior service at a second rate ISP who wont subsidise his service with advertising."

    As someone living outside the UK in a civilised part of Europe, I have to ask how it's at all effing possible to obtain a connection that is inferior to a BT one? Domestic "broadband" connections in the UK are already a laughing stock and now you're adding blatant spying and misinformation to that ridiculous circus? Back to the Lubyanka with your sorry arse, please!

  123. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely DNS-fiddling CANNOT stop Phorm monitoring?

    Re: Phorm counter-measures Posted Saturday 26th April 2008 10:34

    What you describe is pointless. No reasonably simple action the user can take will stop Phorm's interception of users' traffic. Your suggestion may may stop the delivery of cookies and of the corresponding targeted ads, but no action along those or similar lines can prevent Phorm's interception and monitoring.

    Please stop posting this rubbish, it gives people a false sense that there are simple anti-Phorm things they can do. Maybe there are, but these kind of suggestions aren't effective in stopping the interception.

  124. Eponymous Cowherd

    Re: Third world countries (@AC)

    ***"Third world country tries to repress leading edge technology"***

    The only thing 'leading edge' about Phorm is that it resembles the first sight of an enormous and painful turd as it is squeezed out of BT and Virgin's respective assholes.

  125. Gethin


    Just phoned up VM and requested information re phorm and when they are implementing it. Was kindly told that there Traffic "something or other" system has already been implemented.

    So I take it then all my internet use etc is being monitored which due to the nature of my work means possible the officals secrets act etc I have had to sign has been compromised.

    Going to cancel all my VM account.

    Anyone know if SKY are doing the same?

  126. Anonymous Coward

    @ Gethin Phorm Not in use by VM yet?

    It sounds like the helpdesk is confusing phorm with Traffic STM -the 'feature' that slows down your connection after certain download limits have been reached. No-one has managed to show that VM has actually implemented phorm yet, nor prove that they have run trials on live customer accounts. If I were you I'd wait and see what VM eventually do, cable broadband is faster and more reliable than Sky or other ADSL based services.

  127. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    I don't live in the UK

    But I'm steamed up about this phorm-porn!! How on earth can these people get away with such a blatant breach of the law. Don't take >100ml of liquid on a plane, but feel free to wire-tap as many ISP customers as you like!


  128. michael stallings

    CEO of Phorm calls Internet users nothing but a bunch of hobbyists!

    The Home Office refuses to look after the interests of the public - ain't that a surprise!

    Notice how, in front of the record and film industry, the government can't be submissive enough, threatening legislation if the supposed haemorrhage of profits due to unauthorised downloads isn't stopped.

    Forget the people in government - they don't give a damn about us! They are nothing more than criminals in suits.

    The only way to stop Phorm, BT, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk, is to switch ISPs, and inform as many people as you know about what is going on, and tell them to do the same.

    You have to hit large corporations where it hurts, otherwise they won't give a damn - they'll just get more and more authoritarian, more and more arrogant. As it is, corporations are already starting to view us as their property - and chattels have no right to privacy!

    If the British don't start pulling together, we might as well give up on the idea of any kind of freedom.

    On the front page of PhormWatch, an article reports on what the CEO of Phorm thinks of us Internet users:

    "The CEO of Phorm also let slip a shamelessly arrogant remark:

    'The internet today is two to three professionals - Microsoft, Yahoo and Google - and 9,999,999 hobbyists.'"


    Not me! I've already switched ISPs.

  129. Dave Bell

    Obvious (and actionable)

    I have, in my time, come across a few instances where a new job has looked like a payoff for a dirty deal. Usually there has been some sort of filler-job in the middle, such as six months being the guy in a suit in charge of the rat-catchers.[1] These days, it's more likely to be a temp IT job. So this business with Phorm taking on the BT guy in charge of the trials seems unusually blatant.

    I really hope that share options were part of the deal.

    [1] The actual rat-catchers knew their job. All he seemed to know was that he could serve enforcement notices.

  130. Gordon Pryra
    Black Helicopters

    This changes nothing

    There are a number of links to the labour party within BT's Directorship.

    So Phorm WILL be profiling you without your permission within months (they may already be doing so) Laws may change retrospectively to make it all nice and legal, but you KNOW that is what will happen

    I have absolutely no problem with the Police doing this. But I really think that the scum who run our country have sold every one of us down the river for a handful of small change.

    We may as well be a small African Country with the self serving corruption that is going on in this one.

    We need President Mugabe to come and bring some credibility to the UK Government

  131. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom. Brewery.

    As usual.

  132. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Charles Stanley article

    Peter White: Presume you mean the multi page research note?

    Surely an ISP could/would increase to contention ratio for those that opt in?

  133. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Third world country and a bottom spanking...

    kosmos actually mate, you must be the dolt. What don't you understand about the word " choice" take your monthly fee and go to another ISP. Simple. Vote with your feet, just like you claim to do with Google, MSN, Yahoo etc, etc..

    Ps I see one of your own " alexander hannf(?) got his botty spanked on a discussion on BBC with Kent Etrugul ( )

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