back to article Phorm mulls incentives for ad targeting wiretaps

Phorm is considering tugging on ISP subscribers' heartstrings by offering to donate to charities if they opt to let it profile their internet use for advertisers. The idea is one of more than a dozen possible incentives being punted in a survey running on the market research site The questionnaire probes attitudes …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jim Coleman

    If only...

    ...Phorm had offered incentives to start with, there wouldn't have been so much outrage about the whole thing.

    A decent cut of that £85 Million would do me nicely, then you can track my surfing all you like.

  2. Jason Clery
    Paris Hilton


    I believe the expression is

    "You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig"

  3. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Actually, this sounds reasonable..

    .. if true.

    1) Opt-in, not opt-out. As long as this is not done with cookies, and means that if you opt-out your traffic is no longer sniffed

    2) You actually get a (ok, small) slice of the money being made.

    Now we have the basis of a deal. Your browsing habits aren't being stolen without consent, you are selling them. Now we just have to agree a price.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    How Phorm can improve things....

    They can...

    ...if thet fuck off and die. Parasites!

  5. Andy ORourke

    Opt In

    Now all they have to do is guarantee that the traffic of people who don't opt in is connected directly to the internet and not anywhere near the profiler and everyone will be happy........

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I don't want Phorm phucking with my traffic, can I pay an extra quid and get the premium support line?

    And what do web site owners get? Hmm?

    Sticking the Phorm victims onto higher bandwidth might even help them sort a proper opt-out system.

  7. Neil Greatorex


    Even with lipstick a pig can be turned into bacon & Lincolnshire sausages :-)

    But a chrome plated turd.......................

    Phuck off Phorm

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they can slash the price for those willing to bend over and be Phormed, then they can afford to slash the price for the rest of us too. To start with they can stop BT demanding more from me simply because I won't let them have access to *my* bank account, so they can just grab what money they like. Their payment collection costs are their overhead, not mine; they should argue with the bank to reduce costs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow, a discount for broadband prices

    but since its the same company who sets the prices in the first place whats to stop them just raising the non discounted price to cover it?

  10. Mowds
    Thumb Down

    £1 off?

    Stingy bastards...

  11. Matthew

    About bloody time!

    It was the whole underhanded cloak-and-dagger stuff that pissed everyone off. I don't mind making an *informed* decision to give up some privacy in exchange for a clearly defined benefit.

    But these muppets were greedy and thought they could get our data on the sly *and* keep the profits. They had their chance - now they better offer something pretty damn special (all of the above?) for me to feel giving data to a bunch of [expletive removed] is an acceptable trade-off.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    private eye

    phorm even made it into the latest ep of private eye....

  13. Fluffykins

    Here's the deal

    Hey, Phorm/BT. I will only grant access to my browsing data for £1000 a week or part. Take it or leave it. Interception means you agree to this.


    What about web site creators and ecommerce firms then?

    Would you prefer

    a) to have your creative work scammed without your consent?

    b) to be subject to industrial espionage, and lose business?

    c) see your web site plastered with unwanted and unexpected ads for competitors?


    d) Phorm to go out of business and leave the country?

    I'd vote d, but of course they won't ask content creators, because they know the answer they'd get.

    Fingers crossed its not too long now before the cash runs out, and this bunch of scamming idiots leaves the country, with the UK technical community jeering them as they board the last commercial pedalo to sea of eternal oblivion.

  15. Florence Stanfield
    Thumb Down

    without informed consent of website owners

    Unless Phorm also deal with all the website owners who have copyright on their sites Porm will still break laws.

    “The inevitable conclusion is that an ISP who operates the Phorm system will commit offences under RIPA s1 on a large scale. Phorm is inciting the commission of those offences, which is itself an offence at common law (and will be an offence under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 when it is brought into force to replace the common law offence).”

    Taken from

  16. James O'Brien

    I love the "incentives"

    * An upgrade to a faster broadband package at no extra cost

    Ummm ok maybe this one isnt half bad for some people that may not be able to afford it otherwise. Though on the same note heh unlimited broadband 'nuff said.

    * £1 off monthly broadband bills

    WOW impressive amount off. Whats the bill for BB over there? 45-60?

    * £1 cashback per month

    See above though I do wonder how much they would be making off this in the end.

    * A cut of advertising revenues

    1% cut for all of the 60 people who might allow this. $85 million at 1% doesnt sound that bad and they would still be making money

    * A free premium technical support line

    Tech support SHOULD be free if your paying for service. Idiots.

    * Free music download vouchers

    Its call torrents people already use them and get more free music then they would give away.

    * Free anti-virus software

    Umm doesnt this already come with BB service over there? I know it comes free with BB over in some cases, wouldnt use it but thats just me.

    * Parental content controls

    See above but doesnt most AV software now-a-days come with as well?

    I know im not from the UK but seriously do they think you are anymore retarded then people over here in the states? I mean shit I thought we had the monopoly on idiots over here.

    Sorry they think you are all fools :(

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    every saved African is the equivelent of a patio heater! Stop saving people today, save the planet.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter

    They still broke the law and they are still criminals.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    > An upgrade to a faster broadband package at no extra cost

    Still capped and throttled.

    > £1 off monthly broadband bills

    Your generosity astounds me.

    > £1 cashback per month

    No cut-price store will be safe!

    > A cut of advertising revenues

    Shrivelling up even as we speak thanks to Wall Street.

    > A free premium technical support line

    Who will still ask Mac users to click the Start button at the bottom of the screen.

    > Free music download vouchers


    > Free anti-virus software

    Got a Mac, and isn't AVG still free?

    > Parental content controls

    I gave up trying to control my parents long ago.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So customers don't want webwise after all?

    But they said that Webwise was wonderful, and BT said their (unpublished) market research had proved we wanted it. Why do they need incentives if the product is wonderful and we all want it? Were they telling porkies at that time? Surely not,, they are both reputable transparent, open and honest companies.

  21. David Barr

    They'll almost do this

    They'll advertise their broadband exactly the same way, with an asterisk that in the small print says "If you consent to content enhancement through Phorm". The headline service and price will assume Phorm consent.

    Essentially it'll be like booking a flight with Ryanair. Oh you want to pay by credit card? That'll cost you extra.

    What can we do about it? Nothing it seems. Tried booking a cinema ticket in advance these days? Pay a booking fee. Tried buying tickets for anything? Added extras for card payment, and other sharp practices.

  22. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Supply chain...

    As we the public are effectively providing most of the content that enables the Phorm business model to be able to operate - we naturally become a major part of its operational supply chain, as without our input the product is essentially a lame duck.

    Perhaps then, but only after all issues regarding privacy have resolved; as suppliers of that content and as an incentive for us to opt-in, that WE can be paid to a decent level as would any normal corporate supplier expect to be, rather than offering up these oh so desperate carrots to garner public interest, that in reality - fools or tempts no one.

  23. Mark

    Try as you might...

    ... you can't polish a turd.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    One thing they forget - No money left!

    Whether customers opt in or remain opt out, there will not be any money left in the kitty when the claims come in from angry webmasters who have had their copyright infringed by a disgraceful privacy attack by this company whose roots are of dubious origin. (121Media - associated with spyware?).

    They are also forgetting that the EC will hopefully soon scupper this outrage!

  25. Irate BT User
    Thumb Down

    It's not Just the Web User who needs to say YES!

    In order for this to be "legal" every Website visited would need to give permission & I do not see the EU Websites or the US Websites agreeing to that!.

    Especially as the US have just stopped ISPs on their side of the water doing it & the EU have just strengthened their Telecoms packages!

    On an added note "data interception" is until changed by a Court illegal, but more importantly with the Phorm & Nebuad System, altering or changing data (which is Exactly what Phorm /Nebuad systems were doing) is akin to Intercepting Parcels & "Changing the contents" to suit the particular supplier?

    In additition it may not even be enough for both the User & the Website to give permission especially on bullitin boards etc, because the material involved is effectively the Copyright of a multitude of different Users, some may be signed up for Phorm but most will not be!

    That's the mess you get into when you "wiretap" & also interfere with a Two Way Conversation or Communication!

    (Whew that was a mouthful) :)

  26. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    If I take the bung but then encrypt all my network traffic, will Phorm ask for their money back?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    WTF Phuck off phorm.

    "Analysts estimated BT's cut of targeted advertising revenues could hit £85m annually,"

    That was projected over 3 years when it was opt-out so 90%, now its opt-in I would say 10% so maybe 12m over 3 years..

    Divided by the amount of BT subscribers it doesn't amount to a smal pile of beans.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter how you package or spin it

    Phorm's "product" is and BT's trials with it were illegal.

  29. Florence Stanfield
    Thumb Down

    Free upgrades

    BT has always given free upgrades to faster speeds, What will be interesting here is if BT start to make the customers who refuse to be phormed have an inferior connection. There are already many on reduces speeds due to the fear of the excessive fee's BT charge if no fault is found. The fact the customers speeds have dropped and their equipment is not at fault. It is taking longer and longer to get BT to fix faults some have been charged more than once of over £100 then some 4 months later BT fix the fault as overhead wireing with breaks causing intermitten faults..

    Regulation of the faults is letting customers down and BT profit, now BT wish to use Phorm to profit from customers who are already paying. This is too little to late for me I will be also blocking BT ip numbers from my websites

  30. pAnoNymous
    Thumb Down

    £1 a month off?

    what a joke "£1 a month off my monthly bill" is. for our sins we pay Virgin Media ~£1500 year and if they force this down our throats they can wave goodbye to that. they should have put that on the survey.

    my privacy/data security is worth just a touch more.

  31. Solomon Grundy

    Generous People at Phorm

    Really, by taking my data and selling it for 85 mil you are going to give me a whopping $1 (none of your weird English money symbols on my PC guys, sorry). Fuck off. Twice. I wouldn't even punch someone of $1.

    The upshot of this is that if everyone in the UK signed up it'd probably put them out of business.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    so if you decide not to join

    They're just going to illegally tap the line anyway and the rozzers are going to sit back and ignore it. Might as well offer to probe for 'roids.

  33. Tom Chiverton

    I'll take cash

    I'll take the profit share, a 2nd non-phorm line, and a wget script that runs their business model into the ground.


  34. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. N


    So Phuck off you lying bastards

  36. Digby

    How can they afford this?

    When Phorm was first announced, Investec Securities said "the Open Internet Exchange could generate £85 million, or $167 million, in annual revenue for BT alone by 2009".

    BT Retail have 4.5 million broadband customers so for each customer they will "earn" £1.60 per month. They are proposing to pay out £1.00 cashback and £1.00 off a broadband bill.

    Does this mean BT are prepared to run Webwise at a loss to sucker in customers?

    If less customers join Webwise there will be less advertising income so this payout/earning ratio should stay about the same.

  37. Irate BT User

    I just want an Open http channel!

    I don't really want an encrypted system for normal use all I want is an open & free to use Internet without my ISP "snooping" on my data!

    (Although I have thought of quite a few ways around this System already!)

    BT if you're snooping "again", I know you're getting miffed at what I'm reporting but Please desist from trying to ARP Poisoning my router (all I do is power recycle it & start again) or I may tell this community that you didn't switch this Profiler Off after these tests but have been trying to fine tune the subroutines on many occasions!

    Just because it isn't Serving Ads doesn't mean my data is not flowing through it does it!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Technical Support Line

    What would that be used for then? I have had broadband for more years than I can remember and have never needed to phone anyone. What is there to be done? - plug in router, login to router, set IP address/es, set up network card.

    If there is no signal, check wiring and / or reboot router.

    The whole purpose of ADSL is that it is always on, so once it is working what can go wrong?

  39. Dave

    Spit and Polish

    The old expression about turd polishing comes to mind.

  40. Mel

    Free anti-virus software?

    Hey, Phorm guys, if you are going to offer free anti-virus software to try to entice people to let you monitor their communications, then why not bundle your behavioural targeting wares within the anti-virus software.

    You would save a fortune by not needing to pay the ISP to install your DPI hardware, which you wouldn't need either because the processing would be done by the end-user's PC.

    It would also avoid the need to ping-pong the end-users traffic around to forge tracking cookies.

    Oh, hang on... isn't that like the failed adware and spyware models, that is hugely unpopular - still at least you could prevent your anti-virus software from removing itself :)

  41. Midnight_Voice
    Paris Hilton

    What poll where?

    How do we find this poll then? I can't find it on Toluna's site, even searching on Webwise, which gives no results.....

    Paris, because you always get a result with her......

  42. Vincent


    As people above me have pointed out. These are all no real benefits what so ever. Free Anti-Virus software is already available. And £1 off? Are they serious?

    As for parental controls i'm pretty sure that BT offer it anyway. At least they did when I was with them a few months ago.

    To quote so many people: "Phuck off Phorm!"

  43. Anonymous Coward

    regulating perception

    I'm sure OFCOM will have something to say about this, oh, wait, they are now working to promote Phorm.

    Hmm, is this incentives poll funded by OFCOM or do my perceptions need changing?

  44. Bobby


    This is just way too sick to believe, this scum should be removed from society, permanently...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    a couple of pounds short ..

    (First of all) Solomon it is called the Great BRITISH Pound, not the English one, and if you really can't find it on your keyboard it's as simple as copying and pasting it from the article. There are about 40 £ signs on this very page.

    Phorm should have offered £2 off instead of 2 pounds separately. £1 just looks so pathetic that it actually does the opposite. At least you don't burst out laughing and look for the missing numbers quite as hard when they say £2 off.

  46. Richard Silver badge

    If they'd started out like this, it might have worked.

    Except for the website owners whose copyright they may be infringing.

    Some of the 'carrots' are useless though:

    * An upgrade to a faster broadband package at no extra cost

    I've been told that I've already got the fastest my line can support. So has almost everybody taking ADSL broadband.

    If that's not actually true, then I'm afraid Trading Standards need to get involved, and the ASA as well.

    * £1 off monthly broadband bills

    That might actually work. Well done - but make the number bigger.

    * £1 cashback per month

    Cashback deals are generally bogus. The Trading Standards have already investigated a lot of them...

    * A cut of advertising revenues

    Even better, as long as the minimum 'cut' is £2 per month.

    * A free premium technical support line

    The only tech support I've ever needed was when BT have screwed up.

    * Free music download vouchers

    I don't download music. Which store would they be for, anyway? Almost all of them stick annoying DRM into the files so you can't pay them on %device_of_choice%, and have to use proprietary software/hardware.

    * Free anti-virus software

    I already have it, as does almost everyone sane. There are a multitude of good ones, such as Avast, AVG and a few others. The 'big two' paid-for ones are useless anyway - Norton crashes my PC every time I start up a couple of graphics-intensive applications, and McAfee is incredibly slow.

    * Parental content controls

    This is shortly to be a legal requirement in the EU. Don't try to get me to pay for something the EU has mandated you to provide for free!

    In short - too little, too late.

    If it rolls out it'll be amusing to see the first copyright infringement lawsuits from webmasters though.

  47. alphaxion

    I notice you all missed this bit

    um.. why aren't any of you picking this up? "Webwise local"

    Offer companies local to you the chance to advertise to you.

    I thought this was "anonymised", now they can transmit your rough area of residence to 3rd parties?


    Just come out with it - they're logging your IP and node.


  48. Matthew


    Would Tor be enough to scupper their plans?

  49. David Pollard

    Incentive? Power to the people with Web 3.0?

    If there was a deal between the government and Phorm it's probably that Phorm should take the flak over the civil liberties aspects while the government's somewhat more intrusive surveillance plans continue as far as possible under the usual cover of 'nothing to hide...' etc..

    But why can't the datalogging, surveillance and analysis be made available to the people themselves? They are the owners of the data they provide after all; not to mention paying for the kit.

    This would be a real incentive. Besides helping with tasks such as finding lost 'phone numbers, emails, receipts ... and remembering that the car tax is due, it could provide a supersluth personal search machine, working an aide-mémoire and personal inference engine.

    It's time for a true Luddite movement - but check the history carefully for what this means. The Luddites didn't actually oppose technology. Rather than being dispossessed of their livelihoods they simply wanted a fair share of something that their labour had enabled.

    Now, where did I leave my spectacles?

  50. phormwatch
    IT Angle

    The Toluna Poll

    I can't find the Phorm/Webwise Poll either.

    Can someone locate it? Toluna is located here:

  51. Steve

    Must be joking

    "An upgrade to a faster broadband package at no extra cost" - Since when was speed an issue? Uncapped, fibre with no metering or throttling then we can talk

    "£1 off monthly broadband bills/£1 cashback per month" - You must be kidding me....

    "A cut of advertising revenues" - Between the amount I'll actually get, and the fact that the small print will be so watertight the second Phorm stops making a huge profit I'll stop getting anything.

    "A free premium technical support line" - Go phuck yourselves. 1st, I don't need one. 2nd, who doesn't have a techy friend? 3rd, how often do you actually need to contact tech support? 4th, my ISP has a geographical number as their main tech support line anyway.

    "Free music download vouchers" - Indeed. And I presume it'll be with iTunes; and you really couldn't pay me to install that muck on my beloved system. Can't see BitTorrent Inc quaking in their boots over this.

    "Free anti-virus software" - As others have said... AVG, ClamAV?

    "Parental content controls" - Likes the ones BT offers or the ones built into Vista?


  52. michael


    "Phorm should have offered £2 off instead of 2 pounds separately. £1 just looks so pathetic that it actually does the opposite. At least you don't burst out laughing and look for the missing numbers quite as hard when they say £2 off."

    I think they where seprate sugested options so it was likley read as "£1 off or £1 cash back or free av"

  53. The Mighty Spang

    can i get it up front?

    here i can tell them what i use

    facebook/slashdot/register/inquirer/uknova/thebox/bbc news/met office weather/flickr/youtube/planetsuzy/random c# queries

    can i have 60 years of benefits up front now please?

    btw are they interested as i run adlock?

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Market forces

    Don't want these "people" watching you? Easy - just leave your ISP and join one that don't soil itself with this group of spies. You can guarantee that there will be plenty of ISP's who won't want to take Phorm's money, and if enough folks leave the ISPs that do then maybe they'll get the message - don't spy on your customers. Heck, if there's enough talk on the "blogosphere" then maybe even the threat of getting customers leave would be enough to say "no thanks" to Phorm.

    Second tack, if you do get Phorm'd then just don't buy _anything_ from any advert presented. Better still, try and avoid the companies presented. Then similarly maybe the message that Phorm=lost-sales will kill this vile idea.

    I'm with VirginMedia (don't laugh!) at the moment, and if they introduce this as an Opt-In service then I'll think about moving my broadband elsewhere. On the other hand if they impose it unilaterally then I'll be cancelling all my contracts with them immediately and spreading the word for others to do the same.

    I'm absolutely convinced that Phorm without an explicit Opt-In from the "victim" is tantamount to an illegal wiretap. As to the latest idea (given in the article) all I can say is that tying a pretty ribbon around a "dog egg" ain't likely to make me want one! :P

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Now for ALL of those incentives

    it could almost make sense.

    Still, I'm not sure they'd do it in a wholly ethical manner- if you donated to some starving african kid they'd probably bug him to see which brands of food aid he preferred- then send him a load of Spam...

    And free premium tech support on a service you're never supposed to see?! Or is that tech support from BT- which will consist of "awrite pal, mah internet's nae workin'" "See the box with the flashing lights? Turn it off and on again. Thanks for calling. Goodbye". And a quick note- it's not free, you're still paying for it in data.

    Just a quick thought- couldn't the mighty Microsoft roll out an "Automatic Update" to any suitably configured computers / servers that mandated the use of HTTPS? Immediately, about 95% of the western worlds home computers and a good chunk of their servers would be safe from DPI.

    Okay, the Linux, Mac and other marginal communities would be left out of this great security feature but MS would be loved by privacy supporters and it's not like the Linux community (or Apple's programmers) lacks the technical expertise to do something similar.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like