back to article Brussels bounces BT-Phorm quiz back to

The European Commission has again written to the government for an explanation of UK authorities' response to BT's allegedly illegal secret trials of Phorm's ISP adware system. Brussels still wants answers after a September missive from Whitehall failed to address legal issues surrounding past deployments of the technology, …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Andy ORourke
    Thumb Down

    Government response

    They won't want to respond, if they can get someone else to provide the technology and infrastructure required to monitor the poulation then why wouldn't they want Phorm to go ahead?

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Still haven't heard....

    ... any satisfactory reason why BT haven't been taken to task about this by the police!

    Now seemingly, if you commit a crime but didn't mean to hurt anyone, you're innocent.

    You couldn't make it up. Mines the joke that is the police in this matter.

  3. Scott

    Slippery when cuaght out

    And when they get no response again and ask a third time is it more fool them, or more fool us?

  4. Chris Simmons

    I've always been... and this just underlines for me why those, oft-times called "faceless" European bureaucrats more often than not have our interests closer to their hearts than our own leaders.

  5. ElFatbob
    Thumb Up

    Lets just hope they

    hang the bottom feeding feckers at Phorm and the colluding governent nob-heads for this......

  6. Nick Palmer
    Thumb Up


    "For us the matter is not finished. Quite the contrary."

    So does that count as an EPEC fail by I'm really starting to like Viviane Reding...OK, she's a bit scary looking, but sometimes that's not such a bad thing...

    And I'm with Chris Simmons on this. And yes, the City of London Police have been a bad joke in this, as have the IC and Home Office.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police response

    Having just been caught for speeding, maybe I should let the matter go the court and claim I had "no criminal intent." Then once the guilty verdict has been passed, use that to seek a judicial review. Sadly, magistrates courts aren't applicable for setting a precedent...

    Oh - and I'm still awaiting a response to the FOI request I made on 18th September regarding the original BERR response to the EU.

  8. Ashley Stevens

    Brtiain needs a national police force like the FBI

    Well of course the City of London police are not interested, why should they be? They just a small force policing a tiny area of London. They're just a bunch of feckless bobbies really. They're not very far removed the Keystone Cops.

    What's needed is a national, all-graduate police force like the FBI to handle issues like these. You can't expect a bunch of brainless coppers to understand this sort of thing. And you can't expect a local force to police a national issue like this.

    The Amercians don't often do things better but in this case they do. We need a UK equivalent of the FBI - national and all-graduate to investigate these matters.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: Chris Simmons

    European bureaucrats may be willing to stand up to the government and ask the questions nobody else wants to ask, but then why is Viviane Reding saying that she'll ignore amendment 138 of the telecoms package voted on recently by the European parliament and passed with a huge majority (574 MEPs for, 73 against)?

    This amendment would have guaranteed the right to see your accuser in court if they tried to cut you off, but she seems to think that trial by corporation rather than by jury is acceptable. The fact that the evidence they use is often unreliable and doesn't meet the sort of standard of proof expected in court is beside the point apparently.

    It's funny really - the way she seems to accuse the government over here effectively being owned by the telecom companies when she, at least in my view, is equally in the pocket of big business and the entertainment industry in particular when you look at the decisions she makes.

    European politicians are no better than what we've got here, especially the unelected ones. They're just the target of different lobbyists.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    They won't be fobbed off.

    Just goes to show the arrogance of the UK gov.

    Clearly they thought they could fob off the EU with the same sort of evasive responses that the rest of us get.

    Details of the 3rd trial? BT may have turned something on in a 'technical' trial, but there is no evidence that anyone is taking part. IMHO the 3rd trial is a smoke screen to keep the phorm share price from complete collapse. (It's not working).

  11. dervheid
    Thumb Up

    Dear Gov.Uk & BERR


    Go away and do it again. This time do it PROPERLY.


    The European Commission.

  12. Chris Simmons

    @AC Re: Chris Simmons

    I must admit I had not seen or read of that side of the Commissioners office/remit. It immediately brought to mind the stupidity of those amerikkkan "contracts" whereby any disputes "have" to go to arbitration and not to civil court.

    I stand corrected, although I still remain firmly pro-European.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    BERR are not very good at responding to questions

    ... which they feel have already been considered elsewhere. On the BERR site two suggestions were raised regarding the copyright and interception aspects of the DPI systems used to provide the behaviour targeting profile information.

    "official response...

    This idea has previously been raised with government and is already being considered through alternative channels and will therefore be responded to directly by the appropriate government department and not taken further on the Better Regulation website."

    So nice to know that they are still considering these issues. I wonder who the 'appropriate government department' is? So far neither the Information Commissioners Office nor the Home Office have paid this much attention and BERR are passing the buck.

    My one big hope is that the EU are asking similar questions and that sooner or later someone is going to have to come to some decisions about all this.


    Because in a few week's time, many in the telecom and advertising industry are getting together to discuss their next steps. On the agenda is discussing the assets of the telcos which includes:

    * Customer data (for customer profiling and ad personalisation)

    * Telco advertising inventory (web portal, handset, idle screen, SMS, MMS, voice)

    * Response channel (SMS, MMS, click to call, URL)

    * Rating Engine (for performance metrics)

    If that does not get you excited, if you don't feel exploited enough, if you feel that the regulators are doing a good job, what about:

    Stimulus Presentations x 3:

    * What content producers/retailers really need from Telcos?

    * The practicalities of exploiting subscriber data

    * End-user acceptance and regulatory lessons from ISP collaboration in the UK

    * Key metrics for mobile media

    Stimulus Presenters and Panelists:

    * Mark Johnson, Global Marketing Director, Comms Industry, SAP

    * Paul Magelli, Head of Subscriber Data Management, Nokia Siemens Networks

    * Hugo Drayton, CEO, Phorm

    * Will Hodgman, EVP, ComScore/M:Metrics

    When I read the list of what is regarded as advertising real estate, my mind can only boggle at the kind of monitoring and interception that will be being processed by equipment hosted within the ISPs.

    If anyone reading this in the USA is beginning to feel smug after the way your Congress responded this year, maybe the conference being organized by your telcos later this year will get you excited all over again too. Sorry that I don't have the URL to hand for this post.

  14. Dangermouse


    Gov.UK - *holds hands over ears*

    "La, La, La, La, La, can't hear you. If we do this long enough it will work, won't it?"

  15. anonymous sms

    Trade Bodies and Lobbyists

    The mass marketing industry that wants this are part of influential global trade bodies.. These bodies lobby Government and Government listens. This Government never listens to the public.

    If there is a conflict of interest between Commerce and the public this Government always acts in the interest of Commerce. If Regulatory/Consumer/Criminal laws conflict with the interests of commerce the Regulators (and Government) will and do turn a blind eye.

    Welcome to the innovative 'self regulating' UK market place.

  16. David Pollard

    @ AC - Re: Chris Simmons

    "European politicians are no better than what we've got here ..."

    Quite right. It seems rather more likely that there is a squabble over who should control the surveillance than that EU regulators are working to preserve our freedoms.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Re : WebWise

    " BT began inviting customers to use WebWise "

    Indeed. They worded it roughly as "install this and you'll be protected from more interweb threats", a tactic used by such malicious software as XP Antivirus 2009 et al. They completely omitted to explain the Phorm aspect of it at all.


  18. Dave Bell

    It's a hard life in a government office

    Tempt have been lost for weeks in the shag-pile carpets, carrying letters from fax-machines to ministerial desks.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    There will be no investigation

    Why? Labour does not want a judge to rule such actions illegal.

    Why? Labour want to use similar technology to monitor all electronic traffic.

    Why? Labour is hell-bent of totalitarian state control.

    Why? This is the left-wing ideal. Nanny knows best. Object the machine.

    Of course they'll say it's about crime/terrorism, but people who can think know better.

    Labour - destroying your country one database at a time

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Webwise trials?

    Has anyone been invited, or know ANYONE who's been asked to join the lastest Phormulaic trials?

    Or are they solely targetting the type of people who used to get excited over AOL disks coming through the letterbox?


  21. Graham Wood

    @Ashley Stevens

    We have a national police "force", cannot remember its old name, but the new improved version is "SOCA":

    Maybe we should get them involved given the fact that the breaches are "serious", were certainly "organised", and definitely "criminal".

  22. Martin Milan

    @AC - There will be no investigation

    Too right...

    I wonder if they will be taken to task for their misuse of terrorism leglilation to freeze the assets of Icelandic banks...

    Come to think of it, I wonder what an Icelandic Terrorist Banker actually looks like...


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Whey hey! Someone with balls!

    Sick an tired of being treated like some bottomless pit that this advertising drivel must be pumped into, day and night! I have stopped watching TV, I can't sit through ad-breaks. I had to stop, else there would have been a boot through my nice LCD screen. Listen ad -wangers and you lot at Phorm, I don't want stuff right now! If I want stuff, I will go looking for stuff and you are welcome to advertise to me, but until then Ph**k -off! I have at least 4 mechnisms on my home network and PCs, dedicated to the sole purpose of stopping ads and other mindless pap getting through to me! Now it looks like that's all in vain thanks to Knut and his Phorm cack!

    I never used have much time for Europe, but in the last 10 years, I have become a massive supporter. They seem to keep trying to keep things moving in a generally reasonable direction. When they want to spy on people, the country in question says, "We spying on you, it will start on date X. Any problems? Good!". Not like Gordo and he's uber-secret Stasi, trying his best to pump every last bit of tax-payer's money into EDS' pockets, without bothering the fluffy little heads of his subjects.

    I doubt anything will come of this latest request by the EU, but at least the more it drags on the more coverage it may get I suppose, keep it in the public eye. As Dephom says on the website, don't mess about, your best bet is to dump BT, tell the PH-off and find someone who actually cares about your privacy!

  24. Anonymous Coward

    BT back under the microscope

    Well it looks like BT are back under the microscope.

    Exactly HOW they are doing the interception?

    HOW they are gaining the consent of the account holder to the interception that is necessary to present a Webwise invitation?

    HOW they are identifying which customer accounts are in their so-called "anonymous" trial so they can be tied to changed Terms and Conditions?

    HOW do they identify vulnerable children and adults who are not principal account holders by allowing them to "choose" Webwise when they are too young to make a contractual choice to be profiled when the principal account holder may not be at home or in the country and was "given" only 24 hours notice of the trial by a notice in a forum they may never have heard of?

    No answers to customers, no answers to the press, and so far no answers to the EU. The answers will have to come out BT. Sooner would be better than later.

    If 10,000 BT customers have had an illegal interception of their browsing inviting them to consider opting in to Webwise, where is the evidence?

    Have you heard of ANYONE who has had one of these Webwise invitations from BT Retail? ANYWHERE?

    I know that if you ask that question publicly on a BT forum they have a seizure. I asked if anyone had had any unusual unwanted popups recently and my post was deleted within seconds.

    It's good to see a consistent commitment to transparency from BT. They are so transparent we can see right through them.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title? we don't need no stinking title.

    @AC about nuLabour

    Whilst your statements are correct, they seem to imply that there's a choice via one of the other parties. As far as I can see all the parties are equally obsessed with getting more power. Which makes sense, if they weren't power crazed they'd not have gone into politics in the first place.

    @Mike Richards

    Hey - I used to. Free supply of floppies, which at the time weren't that cheap. When they started shipping CDs instead was a dark day indeed.

  26. Riscyrich
    Thumb Up

    @ Mike Richards

    Good point Mike - can El Reg run a survey ?

  27. Bobby
    Dead Vulture

    Good ole Viv, they won't fool her...

    I don’t think all is well in the BT/PHORM camp.

    I have read all the relevant laws and their WEBWISE deployment is clearly illegal in every aspect of the law so only fools would take this thing forward now knowing the consequences.

    We cannot distance ourselves any further from the rest of the world by legalising spyware in the UK therefore this spyware system must be stopped.

    Anyway if the system is as good as they say it is why don’t they just repackage is as a downloadable executable that everyone’s bound to snap up, they could call it something like ‘PEOPLE-ON-PAGE’


  28. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    Seems to me to be the governmental equivalent of 'The dog ate my homework'.

    Maybe it's time everyone got detention until someone owned up?

  29. Jonathan

    "explaining to subscribers they were being monitored would have been difficult"

    "...the Information Commissioner's Office.... agreeing with the firm's claim that explaining to subscribers they were being monitored would have been difficult."

    so they decided just not to bother and to hell with the law?

    and this is an acceptable excuse?

    the mind boggles!

  30. Tim Schomer
    Paris Hilton

    What's the betting...

    "A spokesman for BERR said the government had not yet received the EU's new letter. "Should we receive such correspondence it will of course receive our full attention," he said."

    ... that the government will 'lose' the letter (if they haven't already) - hell, losing things is the only thing this government seems to be any good at.

    Paris 'cos - well - obvious innit.

  31. Inachu
    Dead Vulture

    This is so fake!

    I can almost say with 100% certainty that the trials were just that trials with no real intent of any future legal business. They did this just so they can collect more emai addresses and collect more other data so when they ar enot performing any test trials they will have enough data to work with then when the data is all dried up they will plead with another ISP to try as a secret trial to test again....


  32. Matthew

    Nobody seems to care...

    I've raised a Number 10 petition for the law to be enforced - BT & Phorm to be prosecuted - for illegal data interception. This was rejected as 'it is a matter for the CPS and Police'.

    So I contacted the CPS - they said it's the Police's decision.

    So I contacted the City of London Police - who haven't responded.

    There we go: our world-class legal system in action!

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Time machine

    I wonder if, going back to the end of February, having been warned about this Webwise shit and knowing now what would happen to them as result, whether they would have actually fucking listened rather than shoot the messenger and stick their heads in the sand?

    I'd ask Ben, but he's moved on now :)

  34. Neil Greatorex

    @Whey hey! Someone with balls!

    Back up a little there sonny, that's two separate issues.

    Phorm - Illegal Interception of all of your web traffic for the purposes of profiling.

    Advertising - Paying for all your "Free" stuff on the intarweb.

    Phuck off Phorm

  35. Marco
    Thumb Up

    Great News

    This is great news,

    we just have to hope that the EU doesn't give up on this and brings Phorm and BT to justice

    Can't the reg stick a Phorm Inc share price tracker on their site so that we can watch it fall into oblivion, PLEASE

  36. Ian Chard

    This is why the EU is a good thing

    It acts as a check on member states' more insane actions. Not that anything will come of this, but it does at least give pause for thought.

  37. The BigYin

    @Martin Milan

    It wasn't an anti-terror law they used. Sorry to burst your bubble.


    49. Part 2 contains measures to allow the United Kingdom to take action to freeze the assets of overseas persons or governments who are threatening the economic interests of the United Kingdom or the life or property of United Kingdom nationals or residents.

    50. These provisions allow the United Kingdom to impose sanctions in cases of urgency, where neither the United Nations nor the European Union has yet agreed a course of action, or in cases where it is appropriate for the United Kingdom to impose sanctions unilaterally.

  38. Law

    but people....

    there is no criminal intent - so nothing to see here, the police have spoken!! And any of you Euro-tards and Freedom-to-privacy-tards think silly pesky little privacy laws will stand in BT's and Gov's way - think again!!!

    I for one welcome out idiot government overlords... until the next election that is...

  39. Mister Cheese

    @Graham Wood

    Organised? This is BT you're talking about here...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was an anti terror law

    Look at the date.

    and this link

    We are at war with Iceland :)

    And your link has anti-terror in the title as well.

    The BBC reported it as well, with Iceland saying they didn't think it very nice to punished under an anti-terror law.

  41. RW

    Par for the course

    I was reading the Daily Mail a few minutes ago and laughed when I read HM Govt's response to the loss of a HD containing personal details of armed forces members, maybe all of them, by EDS: "Regrettable"

    Pray tell, who are the nitwits in Whitehall and Downing Street who think that that is an appropriate response? Answer, the same nitwits who are trying to baffle Brussels with bullshit.

    I bet if it was Gordon Brown's Great Aunt Fanny's personal details that had been lost, the response would be as little less temperate. Maybe the thing to do is start ferreting out the personal details of the assholes in charge (and their busybody minions) and regrettably start leaving those out in public. Don't just name them and shame them, screw them over thoroughly until they discover what it's like to be on the wrong end of such a data loss.

    Or maybe some good El Regites can infiltrate Phorm and divert Gordon Brown's browsing details to a display on Facebook?

    Where now, Brown cow?

    I think my blood pressure is high, reading about this nonsense.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The truth

    Basically the problem is this. The UK government, not being very technologically aware, almost certainly didn't understand or care about what BT and Phorm were doing.

    Now, people have cottoned on as to what was going on, the intelligent IT community have jumped on the issue raising security and privacy issues, questioning the legality of it.

    The thought that it might even violate the European Privacy and Electronics Communication directive is probably something that never entered the heads of the officials at the Home Office when they gave their 'legal opinion' to BT/Phorm prior to the trials being conducted.

    The EU commission has questions, and they're not answered. Why are they not answered? Because there is only one answer they can give "We didn't take any interest and we didn't care about what BT and Phorm were doing, we just let them do it", and that's not an answer that the government is going to put in a written letter to the EU commission is it?

    So the response the government provides to the EU is to side track the direct questions that have been asked, not answer them, and provide answers to questions that have not bee asked.

    If you look at all the privacy issues that have been coming up in the last few years, the British Government doesn't really care about our privacy. I just hope Europe does ( some European countries take the issues seriously, in particular France) and may be the EU will save us, because it's pretty clear ( as I predicted) the Information Commssioner is completely impotent - going to be difficult to explain to BT's customers they're traffic is being intercepted? Oh, well, it's difficult then, so we won't notify them and we'll be quite happy to break the law.

    F**k me, and we all thought the information comissioner was independent? Puppet.

  43. Claire Rand


    keep in mind what phorm sees phorm can change, they are already phorging content with the cookie monster.

    so when the next such scheme evolves how long before pages mentioning things BT etc don't like simply vanish to be replaced with 404 errors? and site specific 404 errors as well, returned by simply asking for a made up URL and returning that in place of the page asked for.

    the _only_ reason phorm/webwise hasn't been rolled out is because of the fuss already made, it wouldn't suprise me if the tril is going ahead, but the reason no one has seen the opt-in page is due to a "technical issue" that BT are "unaware of" so there will be no criminal intent here either...

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Minister's letter writing stle

    In another article here on The Register I read the government's response to the EU. What I noticed immediately is the similarity, the style, the bullshit that "we're committed to blah blah blah" is the same as the response a well known secretary of state (who shall remain nameless) gave to my conservative MP when I raised some questions on an entirely unrelated matter.

    You have to ask, are these ministers all educated at the same place, taught to write in the same style spurting out the same bullshit?

    These guys just can't write succinctly, the answers they give are dressed up in a load of crap which serves no purpose at all and isn't even relevent to the questions which they're poported to be responses to. Just answer the god damn f**ng questions and leave out the unnecessary superflous crap and stop trying to convince us you're the good guys working for our benefit when we know you're not.

    Now was that succint enough?

  45. Andy Barber

    @ AC: Re: There will be no investigation

    Then you must have believed all of what the Leftie author, George Orwell, said about a Fascist world state. It's NOT the Labour Party you have to worry about.

  46. Frederick Karno

    Hot under the collar

    I know its a very emotive issue but , the only thing that matters to any firm involved in the trials is money......your money .

    Personally i have made a pledge with myself to never ever use any isp that uses these profiling systems at all....BT/Virgin et al take note : i will never be a customer of yours while you insist on doing this no matter what the cost is to me to follow this rule.

    As for our government they arent interested because they would be seen to be 2 faced when they themselves are installing equipment to mirror all our communications, that mr government is another bad move but i will leave a response another time.

    I already have a very aggressive policy towards advert blocking and very few ever make it to my screen....Advertising companies take note ...... i would never ever buy anything from a firm that uses such methods.You are increasing MY traffic allowance for no good reason and i get nothing in return so back off !!!!

    It is only because they get people clicking on there adverts that they use this method in the first place....dont do it.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Reply to Chris Simmons / Amendment 138

    I do'nt know why Chris Simmons believes that Reding would be against Amendment 138 voted by the Euro-Parliamentarians last week. She has publicly said, at several occasions, that she SUPPORTS this amendment on Internet freedom: see This is why France's President Sarkozy is now attacking her heavily; see,5340.html

  48. dave

    phuck off phorm

    Share price in a free fall and i am loving it. I think phorm was down to less than 200p yesterday.

    Good to hear that the EU is not letting up on old Gordy and his evil minions. Who elected Gordon Brown anyway? Did we elect him? Sack him and his evil cronies....for allowing this fiasco to continue and for all the Data Security breaches that have been happening on his watch. Gordie clearly has no idea how to protect data at all. If i was a terrorist i would come here and have a wet dream just thinking about all the places i could get info. Let me see....already there is info on nearly all police officers out there, lots and lots of RAF and regulars. Heck....dont like the problem ...come to GB and get info on them here.......SACK HIM!

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason that the UK Govt....

    has not responded or done anything is because we are now living in a Labour Police State and

    they could not give a damn. The way that Governments survive is by hoping that the majority

    of voters will never realise how bad things really are. You know, and I dont mean to be rude,

    90% of the population still think the moon is made of cheese and that elvis lives there. It is no

    wonder that Labour like that because they are safe in abusing everyone and the 10% who have a brain can do nothing on their own.

  50. Midnight_Voice
    Paris Hilton

    @RotoCyclic -In another article here on The Register I read the government's response to the EU.

    Did you? Please give the reference, as I'd love to read it too. Are you sure you didn't just read a press release about it?

    Apart from it stressing the importance of openness and transparency as to what Phorm do, we don't really know what it contains.

    As the openness and transparency don't apparently extend to the letter itself.

    Paris, because she at least knows about openness and transparency

  51. RogueElement

    I'm with the DangerMouse response

    after all - it's all parr phor the courts.

    lalalalalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalala lalalalalala .lah !... have they gone yet?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like