back to article PlusNet customer invited to opt-in to BT's Phorm trial

A PlusNet subscriber was surprised this morning to be invited to join Phorm's latest "WebWise" targeted advertising trial, despite assurances that only BT's own customers would be asked for permission to intercept their web browsing. A PlusNet spokesman said the incident was a one-off, caused by a configuration error. …


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  1. Andy ORourke
    Thumb Down

    First one I've Heard of

    being "invited" to take part in the trial. Don't know of anyone else do you? did you get an invite?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    BT Bunch of Tossers

    This is why i left plusnet after they where bought by BT, they turned into a bunch of muppets. I was only with them as they bought force9.

    At least we know now that any web traffic going through BT Retail is fair game for snooping :)

  3. Geoff Mackenzie

    Good good.

    However, the very fact that these customers did see this message seems to imply that there is some interception and manipulation going on. Add this to their 'upgrade' scam that reduced my unmetered hours for a few extra pounds a month not long ago and it looks like I'm leaving them shortly.

  4. Gulfie
    Thumb Up

    Exactly why I left in the summer...

    I was seeing the same network behaviour on PlusNet as a colleague who was on BT, I left for Zen and don't regret the extra £10 a month to actually get an unthrottled connection and reasonable, known upper limit for traffic.

  5. Florence Stanfield

    Trust, do you, can you?

    BT are heading for the award for the ISP run more like a comedy of erros instead of a bluechip communications company.. Oh how the mighty have fallen towards the gutter, with one after another news release about BT. They have been guilty if misleading information to customers, using in aprprate methods to suppress the truth. There is a very long one thread on BT beta which is often heavily censored with members being warned for posting the unmentionable words on other ports of the forum. The best part so far is by Angus who has brought the whole mess into a few posts. main part here

    Time to clear the dead wood from BT and any government official who allowed this to continue.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me

    I must move ISP, sorry plusnet people (always been ok for me) but BT cant have it both ways.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Demise of PlusNet

    I remember when PN provided friendly service and competitive products. Then they implemented "bandwidth management" and the final nail in the coffin was BT's purchase..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PlusNet Suck Donkey Balls Anyway

    Way back before BT they were the best....Great speeds and Service...Then they started introducing caps and fair usage that wasn't actually fair...30Gb a month limit but you got severly kicked in the balls when you got close to it (hit 20Gb and it knocked your already monumentally shitty ADSL connection down to like 512kb/sec).

    I had enough with BT and PlusNet and went Virgin, even with their lies, over complicated billing and piss poor customer service it feels like the fully lubed up internet experience rather than it going in dry with BT.

  9. glennog

    @BT Bunch of Tossers

    As a former employee, I have to take issue with what you're saying about PN. When they were bought by BT, nothing much changed. A few faces at the top, that's about it. They most certainly did not, however, turn "into a bunch of muppets". If anything, the drive and focus increased in the post BT buyout days. I can honestly say I've never worked alongside such a dedicated and talented bunch of people in my life, and I don't expect I ever will again.

    You clearly don't know much about your history, as Force9 WAS Plusnet - not bought by Plusnet. F9 was their first brand.

    As for the problem in question, it appears to me (from reading the community site, specifically the forum post where the customer posted their issue) it would appear that it's a BT screwup, not a PN one. From what I know about the BT Webwise trial (which is only what I've read in the tech-press, not from when I worked at PN), BT configure their network devices to intercept certain segments of customers going through their network. Other segments are configured to bypass the Phorm kit. My assumption would be that BT, instead of excluding this customer and configuring the bypass, configured her for the Phorm trial. Their bad, and they fixed it. I wouldn't go as far as to say any traffic going through BT Retail is fair game for snooping, but I would concede that they do appear to be using the BT Retail network for the trial. Which of course makes sense - it's their network.

    And to the Comms guys who will doubtless be reading this comment - hey guys, hows it goin :D

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    It's annoying

    I've been "invited" a few times, no matter how many times I click on "No Thanks". I even get the page pop up multiple times in the same browser session. It also seems to appear a lot when visiting El Reg - conspiracy?

    Maybe the cookies being blocked, or maybe BT/Phorm are trying to annoy me into accepting it?

  11. Steve

    I should think so to!

    I've been wondering about Plusnet's intentions re. Phorm. and this sorts it out nicely for me. I've been with force9 since the days of 14k dial-up. Nothing to really complain about in that time, and less so now. I've always trusted them and felt valued by them.

    I've never thought of them as a bunch of scamming muppets. In fact, I haven't come across many ISPs that could hold a candle to what F9 do. They may not win the prizes for fastest or cheapest but IMHO they'll still be standing whilst others come and go.

    PS I download shitloads. Hardly ever go into the red on my usage. Never more than a shot across the bows from f9 when I come close.

  12. TimM
    Dead Vulture

    Fuss about nothing

    1 person. That's all.

    Plus have had their fair share of screw ups, but this is hardly a major customer disaster. Just smacks of a chance to bash them because of their owners.

    Frankly I've found Plus to be pretty reasonable and a good price for the flexibility offered. The whole no-longer-unlimited fuss was just inevitable and all ISPs went that way anyway. Throttling is just the price you pay, though you can pay for little or no throttling if you like.

    Anyway, I've always felt PlusNet's real problem has been their openness. I lot of the self-righteous pirates out there got on their high horses because Plus announced things that makes a small percentage no longer have the party they once had. Whereas many ISPs never tell their customers about the things going on under the hood, and get less publicity other than people complaining about how slow things are. Much of what get slung at Plus is just toys from the pram.

    They're not the best certainly, but there are far worse, and personally, I've not seen any impact of being owned by BT now (negative or positive).

    I'm sure plenty of people will respond foaming at the mouth, and fair enough, but be thankful you're not with VM, Tiscali or AOL (or even BT!) ;)

  13. beast666

    Sky Max?

    If anyone has problems with throttling and/or download caps, why not change the Sky's Max package? No limits, no throttling, no Phorm.

    It may of course change in the future, if so I'll drop them like a hot potato(e). Given a plausible alternative...

    In the meantime I can download your fav movies (in HD) in half the time in takes to watch them...


  14. The Cube
    Black Helicopters

    All of your traffic is belong to us

    I remember when many British institutions were sold off to Russian Crime Lords but I do not recall being told that this was the case with BT. Can we have an update to AV and Internet Security suites please? Perhaps an update to the Windoze Security Center that gives a warning triangle and says "Windoze has detected that your ISP is BT and is snooping on all your traffic to hand over to your government and advertisers without your knowledge, permission or consent. Please install another ISP"? (BT / Pus Net / AT&T replace as appropriate)

    Of course I do remember what British Telecom is rhyming slang for, out of order as in "That was a bit British Telecom" which reminds us that BT have not fallen from grace but are simply carrying on their decades long scraping along the bottom. If it wasn't for Virgin Media there wouldn't be a down direction for BT...

  15. Anonymous Coward


    Can the AC who has been invited multiple times pop over to and join the forums.


  16. Steve

    @ The Cube

    Rhyming slang? In russian maybe.


  17. Ed


    Whilst I'm sure this instance was just an error "no plans to at the moment" wouldn't be anywhere near reassuring enough if I was a PN customer.

  18. Claire Rand

    config error?

    what was the error:

    1, that his system _could_ be seen by phorm?

    2, that _he_ saw his system could be seen by phorm?

    personally i'd not trust anything to do with phorm, as soon as the word is mentioned the organisation concerned looses the benefit of the doubt for even being in bed with them.

    since lets face it, it all that stands between you and phorm is a config file error, well how long before a config error results in you being scanned and profiled but somehow the opt out never quite working.?

  19. John Stirling

    poor old plus

    I've been with plus since I had to have 'home highway' with a solid 64k digital connection - unlimited at £100 per month.

    They have screwed things up occasionally - when they accidentally deleted 700 GB of emails (not mine - as far as I know) - that was a highlight.

    But has already been said their main problem (and reason for me staying) has been their openess. When they screw up they admit it, rather than the other larger ISPs that deny deny deny.

    Anyone remember telewest, and their domain jacking when they moved to blueyonder? (They didn't own the domain, but simply hijacked it within their network - inefficiently, as evidenced by the then legal owner of the domain receiving high level private emails). That was the NICE half of virgin - the rump being NTHELL.

    Most of them can deliver bits and bytes, but of the biggies, plusnet (5th once upon a time?) is the one with corporate responsibility

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If the invite page has been shown, you are being intercepted whether you like it or not - LEAVE NOW - GET YOUR MAC CODE.

  21. Andrew

    PN works for me

    I kind-of doubt that any ISP is perfect. PN being owned by BT makes me nervous, but this is a tiny isolated incident.

    I've been with PN for 6+ years, and find them to be technically very competent. Any business I've been with for that long who've never sent me a piece of paper (nor me them), and to whom I've never had occasion to speak on the phone must be doing something right.

  22. Stern Fenster

    Still trying

    As soon as the Phorm crap blew up (seems years ago) I asked PlusNet about their angle on it, and got the same response quoted above - "we want nothing to do with it". I then asked BT if, as PlusNet use their infrastructure, we're all going via Phorm anyway. Many pulled teeth later, they answered: If PlusNet say your traffic ain't going through Phorm, then we sure it isn't. Not reassuring. I've been trying to get a firmer answer ever since. Wondering about trying a solicitor's letter.

    Hedging bastards....

  23. Alex

    thats it

    MAC code requested, BT can sod off, time to talk to the EU about BT's legal foundations of the initial trial. Had enough now.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    re: PlusNet Suck Donkey Balls Anyway

    Certainly one way of putting it. I intensely distrust Plusnets assurances so far regarding ono-adoption of phorm - I reckon they'll be about 19 seconds behind BT when it's brought in for real. Whoever made the mistake; BT or PN, it's an uncomfortable reminder about who holds the reins. So after 8 years, I think it's one straw too many - time to get the MAC and say hasta la vista Plusnet before the new year.

    Paris, cos in the 'as two short planks' event of the 'dumb' Olympics, even she'd have to take silver to some of Plusnets past mistakes (700gig of lost email anyone?).

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Time to move

    Not had a problem with Plusnet (other than the email debacles!!) even since BT got them, but if there is any chance of my traffic going near Phorm then I need a new ISP.

    As for download limits that's only peak times which, if you didn't sign the new contract, is still only 4pm till midnight.

    There is no limit outside of these hours.

  26. Dennis

    BT make Mistakes?? I don't believe it

    Sure everyone is entitled to make a mistake. Even BT!

    .......but isn't it funny that the mistakes are always in their favour.

    But this was just a config issue.!!!!

    Why is it possible to make a config mistake and drive another companies customers through the BT/Phorm network.


    Are we seeing the first of the many excuses BT are trailing to excuse driving everybody throught the PHORM Farm.

    If you don't notice where's the harm.................

    If you do notice it was a config/setup issue..................

    Just don't worry Wacky Jackie says it all right

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The 250...

    So the person sent an opt-in invite must be one of the 250 customers being provided by BT Retail in the other trial. Their data would presumably be being sent to Phorm along with the rest of the BT data, and is being stored but not processed along with the BT refusenicks. These people probably don't know that they're part of this trial and that their data is being sent to a third party.

    For me personally, the only reason I've not left PlusNet was the assumption that, despite its ownership, it was run independently of BT. If this isn't the case I may be looking for a new ISP. I would have emailed PlusNet to confirm what's going on, but there's no email address on their web site.

  28. Charles Smith

    The Error was that they got caught

    BT & PlusNet are now on the list of Do Not Touch Even With A Long Wooden Object.

    BT are so chaotic. I recently ran a project where BT hadn't noticed that someone had chopped hundreds of copper phone circuits to a building during refurbishment. They even took orders to supply services over their non-existing circuits.

  29. Bobby
    Thumb Down


    Shows you their level of incompetence with a cavalier attitude toward the privacy of those who have rejected them.

    Hey, why hasn't thing whole bloody scam been burried yet, it's not only illegal but a complete waste of time and money?

  30. Mark
    Thumb Down

    watch out for hidden charges

    Plusnet have provided me with good service and friendly support.

    However recently I was informed I'd have to pay £20 if I wanted to leave due to a change with BT Wholesale pricing.

    What a rip off.

    I'd leave for another ISP if it wasn't going to cost me 20 quid!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ glennog

    fair enough, i dont take that active a history in companies. if it was rebranded not bought when the name chnaged. I appologise for that.

    As for them being muppets this comes from my own personal experience. I was regularly ringing them up 2/3 times a week for about 3 months to try and sort out problems on my line. And just about everyone I spoke to was a muppet and regularly contradicted what I had been told previously. I did finally speak to a sane, intelligent person. Who fixed the problems, I was having and appologised for the hassle.

    However it was too little too late, and I left. The nice people at plusnet rather than leave my line active until the new one came on line which is what is meant to happen, dropped my account for a dial up one. Therefore I lost internet for several weeks and was pain to sign up for a new one. I complained about this in writing and 6 months on have heard nothing. But hay this is about the level of customer services the last 3 months of my time with them brought me to expect.

    SO I am sorry we have different views. I was badly treated and now dislike you as a company, not personally, and I will tell everyone how shit you are. I was a big fan in my time there and had very many people in my refers list, but since then I know a lot of the people I suggested go with you have had similar customer "service" issues and left.

    Its so easy to annoy a customer and so hard to get that trust back.

  32. James Pickett


    "no plans to at the moment"

    I hate that sort of phrase. A bit like Blair offering his full support!

    I get on well with PN, not least because their support is prompt, helpful and doesn't seem to have been outsourced (unlike BT). I give notice, though, that I will be gone if they touch Phorm.

  33. Chris Matchett

    I agree that PN did not go downhill when bought by BT

    They had been crap for about 2 years previous to that already. The service was so inconsistant and getting technical support was too expensive and too slow.

    I moved to Zen 2 years ago.

  34. Martin Edwards

    Love PlusNet

    I like and trust PlusNet. It offers good value, fast and knowledgable non-outsourced support, a good connection speed, good user control panel and features, and 'openness' beyond that of any other tech company I can think of. It upsets me that it's owned by BT, and this Phorm incident is clearly a worrying cock-up, but I wouldn't consider switching ISP because of it.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was only a mistake

    I guess as an analogy I could say I'm sorry I lost all this countries population credit card numbers, addresses and personal information on the train.

    OK I did it once, it was a mistake, but I won't do it again.

    To Late I say - Get your MAC code and don't forget to tell them the reason why!

  36. OFI
    Paris Hilton

    Plusnet bad after BT?

    "This is why i left plusnet after they where bought by BT, they turned into a bunch of muppets. "

    You MUST be kidding? I have been with several ISPs (including AOL) and PlusNet were by far the worst. Joined up with a "high bandwidth package" to find my download cap reduced to 50% within a couple of months to "improve my service" which was followed by constant bad speeds and dropouts. PlusNet refused to let me out of the contract without a huge bill.

    Technical support? What technical support?

    BT on the other hand have actually been one of the best ISPs and I have only gone elsewhere to get more bandwidth.

  37. Baldychap

    Plusnet are fine

    It looks like opinion is divided, by I'll add my two pennys by saying that I think PlusNet are great.

    I've been with them with their 'free-online' brand since the days of dial-up. I've had very little problems and certainly feel that they are fair and open. Sure they've made mistakes, who hasn't?, but they always seem to own up straight away and keep their customers informed via their service status pages.

    I've found their fair usage policy to be fair, their recommendation scheme to be generous and the web based member centre to be fantastic. I can manage my domains, email, mysql databases etc with ease. As a techie myself I like to do things 'my way' and with PlusNet that's been possible. Try doing that with Sky et al.....

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