back to article Phorm protestors picket BT AGM

Attendees at BT's Annual General Meeting today will have to run the gauntlet of an anti-Phorm protest outside the event at the Barbican, London. Protestors will hear from Baroness Miller, who is tomorrow meeting the Home Office to outline her objections to BT's trial of the snooping technology without informing users. BT …


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  1. Anony mouse


    quite here innit... they must all be at the demo

  2. Anonymous Coward

    i still don't get

    how somebody uploading a single track get's a criminal record and the government start getting involved to stop more download/uploaders - yet a company the size of BT wiretaps thousands of customers without their knowledge, and not one single arrest or court summons.

    I'm starting to lose faith in everything.... maybe it is a recession, I feel very recessed!! :(

    On the plus side - my local MP seems to have started flapping his wings over the issue, and has even sent me the reply he got from BT, and asked for comments. Whether it amounts to anything I guess I will see.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The big lie

    "...a company the size of BT wiretaps thousands of customers without their knowledge, and not one single arrest or court summons...."

    I think it's the aura of once having been the GPO. No one "in charge" can really believe that "trusty old BT" (yeah, I know) can be such cuntpuffins. And if they did, they don't want to be responsible for rocking the boat: BT are the gatekeepers for a lot of national interest comms and hurting them might have consequences.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Storm in a tea-cup.

    What the title says.

  5. Andy Livingstone

    @Anonymous Coward

    Isn't that about all MPs ever do? Pass a copy of your letter to BT, then BT's response back to you, and so on till you get sick of using him as a Post Box. They then mark it up as another constituent's problem satisfactorily dealt with.

    Idle gits.

    My local MP managed to take a Health & Safety matter through the local Council and send me their reply that said "the fence will be painted green as soon as possible". Of course painting something green is well known to block possible accidents. While in the mean time the danger continues and the problem is declared resolved.

    At least they are off for three months. How will the country survive without them?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Couldn't make the protest, still I got a reply from the European commission today, in response to my email saying how rotten this whole thing is and would they please act against it.

    Very nicely they replied that they are still in discussions and will decide if and when they should take action. And clearly stating where the obligations for peoples privacy lie with the member states governments and that the EU will action if the member states don't.

    It's two pages long (ish) and I feel quite pleased they have responded. The reg can have a copy if they ask nicely. :)

    My MP has also replied, adding her name to the early day motion and sending me a more detailed copy of the ICO "passing the buck" statement, which is quite interesting but of little consequence as they are still not really bothered with acting against it. So it is the house of lords bloke and the EU which seem to be the best bet for giving BT a kicking.

    @storm in a tea cup

    You're a tool

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "I still don't get"

    It's quite simple really, just follow the money.

    The BT technical director under whose domain the trials would have been held is now on the board at Phorm:

    And the UK Government department which would be responsible for any legal issues for Phorm-like services is the Home Office. Former Home Office minister Pat Hewitt is now on the BT board (sorry about the long URL, feel free to complain to BT):

    Small world, isn't it?

    BT's ethics policy is at:

    and no it isn't a blank page.

  8. Scott McMeekin

    MP's, BT and the value of irony

    Actually, I've had nothing but positive experiences with my own MP. We had some trouble with gangs of kids smashing windows etc in the local area and the police were a bit slow to react. One letter to my MP and she immediately contacted the Chief Superintendent for the area - within a week, the culprits were all lifted, ASBO's and curfews applied and they were all told in no uncertain terms that if it didn't stop, they'd all be evicted. Not a single bit of trouble since. Try writing or phoning your MP if you feel strongly about something. It really couldn't hurt.

    I remember hearing about the Phorm thing from El Reg, and nearly choking on my coffee - I have a new irony meter being shipped out as I type. A previous commenter mentioned the fact that they are happy to hand over people's info to the authorities when a song is downloaded, and help prosecute, but the same level of vigilance doesn't appear to apply to their own business dealings. I'm sorry, but if you take my browsing habits and pass them to an external company without my consent, then you are breaching the laws of the land. The lawyers who advised BT should be sacked. The executives who made the decision should be made to apologise, and the regulatory watchdog should pursue the matter to its logical conclusion to ensure that this never happens again. What's the problem? The whole Iraqi Information Minister tactic of simply saying the opposite of what is true, simply doesn't make it so. That may work for the US electorate, but it bloody-well won't work here.

    I think it's about time we got a nice, clear statement from the UK government and regulatory authorities about what ISPs can and can't do with our information.


  9. Anonymous Hero
    Paris Hilton

    Patricia Hewitt

    Clearly forgotten what she learned from her previous job experience:

    "Before entering Parliament I worked for several organisations. ..[snip].. After Age Concern I moved to Liberty to stand up for Civil Liberties and Human Rights."

    Paris, because she enjoys the loss of liberty now and again.

  10. N

    Simple fix for Phorm

    Tell Bastard Telecon to phuck off & move ISP

  11. Luke
    Black Helicopters

    no simple fix

    It isn't really about telling BT to go away and getting a new isp. Yeah we can/have done that already, but these guys have done something that is clearly illegal, and they have done it on a massive scale.

    If BT get away with this, then eventually everyone will be doing it. There will be no hiding with whoever the 'best' isp is at the time.

    BT and Virgin are both involved in Phorm. Between them they are in charge of pretty much every bit of telecom cable in the country, can you imagine what else they could start doing if this was effectively given the go-ahead by no action being taken?

  12. alphaxion

    tit-le denounced,

    from what I can see with the governments shadey dealings with phorm, the EU telecoms bill and this bill for a database of all of your calls, texts, IM's, emails and web browsing, I'm pretty sure we are looking at the legal framework for a "great firewall of europe" to vet everyones actions so that they aren't subversive, deviant, illegal and against the good will of the governments of europe out there in netland.

    After a weekend in Paris (the city) and feeling the strange air of relaxation after there being not a single CCTV camera in sight, I got chatting to the locals and people of other nationalities that were there for the event and I have to say, there is a massive swelling of civil unrest brewing in EU-land.

    If things continue the way they are, within the next decade we will be seeing a very interesting uprising of civillians across europe against the corruption and control of our governments.

    Then again, it's prolly more likely that we'll just shrug and carry on with our pointless lives ;)

  13. Shadowthrone

    RE:Simple fix for Phorm


    That will not solve the problem either, if BT are allowed to get away with the trial and then subsiquent roll out of the Phorm system, what is to stop other ISPs from following suit safe in the knowledge that they CAN do it without consiquence of penalty?

    The answer to the issue is to make sure BT suffer the consiquences for their actions in the fullest legal amount and public manner as an example to other ISPs and bodies. This would then serve as a warning that this behaviour will NOT be tollerated at all and WILL be acted upon.

    I agree with the poster who hilighted the differences between the steps and actions taken against illegal file sharers compared to actions taken against BT who have commited a far great crime than mere copyright infringement.

  14. RW

    @ Scott McMeekin

    "The lawyers who advised BT should be sacked."

    They should be debarred, not just sacked.

    Just as directors and executives of criminal companies should be held personally and financially liable for misdeeds done on their watch.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    BT Board

    The board of BT was visibly rocked by the several questions asked by the anti-phorm person in the AGM.

  16. Mark

    re: no simple fix

    This point should be banged home a lot more often. Switching ISPs might sound all consumer empowering and democratic, but once the principal of opt out intrusive privacy buggering is accepted, every ISP will be lapping it up. We'll be left with the same 'choice' as we have about not buying food in supermarkets, i.e. very, very little. It needs to be stopped now, or we just become lab rats designing our own mazes, unrecompensed, for someone else's profit.

    While I find the targetted ads, profiling of my browsing and interception of my communicatiions offensive, the thing that really, really makes me spit blood is the simple, arrogant assumption that my private activity is some natural resource freely available to be harnessed, rather than my own property to be dispensed with (or not) as I see fit.

    All else is, frankly, smoke and mirrors.


    "cuntpuffins". Award winning, you've made my day.

  17. BlueGreen

    Got my response from BT from data protection question

    "it was all anonymised, entirely harmless, nothing fluffy was harmed"

    Not good enough. Can anyone suggest where to go from here? I've already got a request being ignored by the ICO which I'll chase up.

    Sick of this.

    Some useful advice would be welcome.... Gents?

  18. alphaxion


    maybe it's about time that we began banding together and develope a nationwide wireless mesh network where ownership is distributed across the country and you pay the person who runs the local node for access.

    If you don't like the person/node, you can set up your own node and provide people with an alternative that must adhere to a charter of freedom of datastream.

    It could be rolled out to other nations by either virtue of being a neighbour or encrypted tunnel to provide links across current infrastructure to span bodies of water, maybe even provide access to the wider internet this way too.

  19. William Bronze badge

    Has you never seen the film "They Live"

    Watch it and it answers all your questions. Patricia Hewitt is certainly one of them.

    Tony Blair is,for sure. But poor old Brown, he is human as the rest of us. Bless him.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Re: BT Board

    Wot, no video? :(

  21. Sir Runcible Spoon
    Thumb Up

    about the protest

    We only had one person in the AGM askgin questions. Any other questions were raised by other shareholders who we gave information leaflets to as the went in.

    One chap I spoke promised to ask a question, and when he came out he was fuming. He'd asked his question about the legality of the trials and was basically fobbed off. He wasn't happy and wanted to know what he could do about it (there's lots of info on btw)

    There weren't many of us who could attend, starting from about 6 very early on to around 20 later on, but the important thing is that we managed to hand out several thousand leaflets anyway and really got the attention of the shareholders, which was the main point.

    A very successful day all in all. And Baroness Miller was very nice too :)

  22. Andy Livingstone


    You can be sure that the Information Commissioner has not decided to ignore your request.

    His office always takes several months to deal with any enquiry.

    You can usually take the period quoted on the Web Site and double it.

    Neither the systems nor the staff seem able to cope with the volumes.

  23. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Book 'em Dano

    "BT denied having done any deal with Phorm"

    Isn't lying about your business activities illegal any more, then?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Some light reading ...

    ... from inside the AGM

    Well done Pete!

  25. Andrew Moore

    Well done...

    ...and thanks for the link to

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well done!

    I read the report, very well done to the man of the hour, for making the BT board look very uncomfortable in front of the shareholders.

  27. David Pollard

    @AC - The big lie

    "...a company the size of BT wiretaps thousands of customers without their knowledge, and not one single arrest or court summons...." -- "I think it's the aura of once having been the GPO."

    This may well be true. Around 1980, so I learned, it used to be that the techies who installed wiretaps were selected from regular employees. As well as signing up to the Official Secrets Act, their salaries came via the Home Office rather than from the GPO.

    It would be interesting to know how this arrangement changed when BT was privatised. In the days before system-X and zircon or whatever they called it, a wiretap was just that: a yellow twisted-pair wire running across the exchange.

  28. Bryce Prewitt

    It's all useless until regulators step up.

    All right, this I don't understand. If someone were tapping your phone conversations, listening into your call as you talk to your best mate about the new Ford Mustang, and then you started getting a ton of junk mail from Ford about the new Ford Mustang, regulators would be up in arms. Completely, totally illegal.

    Somehow, though, our governments still don't take the internet seriously. Perhaps it's a side effect of the anonymity we all (ab)use on a daily basis. Perhaps it's because you can't steal music or software by talking on a phone. Maybe our representatives see this is those troublesome twats on the internet getting their comeuppance. Who knows, certainly not me. I just can't see how there is such a separation of priorities here. Why is it that the telephone is subject to that much more protection?

    I don't care how anonymous deep packet inspection might be. It's still *my* data. BT, Verizon, and whoever else are just *carriers* of my data. They've no right to see that which is intended for my eyes *only*. There are laws that protect my mail, there are laws that protect my phone, it's about fucking time we get laws to protect the transmission of *my* data. That includes protecting against deep packet inspection to see whether I'm "stealing" copyrighted works or not, but for this argument, it damn well certainly means protecting my data from prying eyes who only want to sell me something, or in an Orwellian world, blackmail me.

    As I've said time and time again, all "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451" gave the world was an education in evil: governments and corporations have simply learned how to better manipulate and control us without our knowledge. Instead we've gotten "Brave New World." If you think the dog and pony show that is the United States Congress's hearings on "Phorm-like behavior" is going to get us anything other than de facto legality for deep packet inspection then you're fooling yourself. This is Quiz Show 2. The EC might be the only folks willing to do anything about it, stubborn as those Eurocrats might be, but I'm damn well sure that the FCC, OFCOM, and their respective governments aren't going to do shit.

    This situation is completely, utterly fucked.

  29. David Cornes

    Techie question

    I'm a Talk Talk user (I know: great price, duff reliability!) and can anyone in words of 3 syllables or less explain to me exactly how does this Phorm thing work? Is it based on DNS lookups via the ISP, some kind of proxying, does it sniff *all* http or Port 80 traffic down the wire, or what??

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who does UKGOV Plc serve?

    >An e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website has already gained more than 15,000 signatures.

    And in other news today:

    >A Daily Telegraph campaign called for a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty with well over 100,000 people signing a petition.

    Under the headline - UK formally ratifies EU's Lisbon treaty.

    You think UKGOV is going to listen to 15,000 people, they might as well have just pissed in the wind, or on a politician. (censor that last bit if you must).

  31. alphaxion

    @david cornes

    in the most simplistic of terms, it works by having a device in between your router/modem and the rest of the unwashed internet that looks into every packet of data that comes from and goes to your end of the line.

    At the moment, they are restricting that device to looking at data that uses port 80 (http traffic). However, should they decide to change things it can easily be expanded to look into the packets of anything else you do on the net.

    Imagine, you spend 2 hours playing a video game and the next few ads on a site using the OIX ad banner network are all graphics cards ads.

    You spend a lot of time playing a specific game of questionable content and you get flagged up as a deviant, the next time you try to leave the country you get pulled to one side for a quick "health check". Anything is possible once the great firewall of europe is officially unvailed.

    did anyone see an article on the BBC website that reported a death of a man fighting to keep his home due to the block of flats he lived in being marked for redevelopment? He was found decapitated and the BBC article mentioned no less than 4 or 5 times "the death wasn't suspicious"... he'd died by having his head cut off with a chainsaw in a block of flats that was going to be demolished once he was out of the way.. how the fuck was that not suspicious?!

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