back to article Virgin Media sticks with Phorm

Claims that Virgin Media is seeking to dump Phorm in favour of more conventional behavioural targeting firms have been denied by both firms today. A report in the digital marketing trade magazine New Media Age today suggested Virgin Media was seeking to distance itself from Phorm by working with Audience Science, another …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why don't they just drop it and be done with it.. nobody wants it.

    Web users don't want their surfing habits snooped on, most don't even want adverts irrespective of how targeted they are.

    Website owners don't want all their (copyrighted) data scraped to build someone else's profiling application.

    Most marketing types, oddly enough (once you've explained it), don't want it because they don't want the data from their websites used to help build customer profiles that might be of use to competitors; if you don't use Phorm hosted adverts then you'll see no benefit from having your data scraped whereas your competitors might.

    So who the hell DOES want it? As far as I can tell it's only "Free Web2.0 extravaganza" sites that have no revenue stream but advertising that want it - the same kind of plonkers that all went belly up when the web 1.0 bubble burst in 2000? For much the same reasons; over-hyped ad revenue expectations and underestimated costs.

    Oh, and ISPs since they get a backhander.

  2. Steven

    With Virgin ATM

    But it's no trouble for me to switch to BE 24Meg or similar if they deploy Phorm :)

  3. Dennis

    They still won't say.... Dare I hope that I won't have to ditch Virgin

    I'm really not looking forward to ditching Virgin Media as I have been reasonably happy with the service I get.

    ...........but if they introduce profiling in any shape or 'Phorm'

    Hi Ho Hi Ho off to find another ISP I go.

    Does anyone else think these icons are out of date. Steve Jobs is (nearly) dead and Bill might as well be. I want a snoopers charter icon. A database symbol with a skull & crossbones would do it.

    Or a computer with a pair of moving eyes. Or would this spoil your fun after the wife has gone to bed.

  4. MinionZero

    ISPs are becoming untrustworthy. Time to get everyone using I2P.

    It doesn't matter if Virgin Media do replace Phorm with Audience Science. Its out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. All these behavioural targeting firms are ultimately all after the same goal. To mercilessly exploit everyone's privacy for their own gain.

    Soon we will not know which behavioural targeting firms our ISPs are working with. Its for this reason we have to start to treating all ISPs as untrustworthy.

    Time to get everyone onto I2P to prevent the ISPs spying on everyone. (Its not yet a perfect solution to stop all ISP spying, but its vastly better than having no protection at all). Everyone using I2P would also financially kill Phorm off before it can get established.

    (Asking and hoping for the government to take action against Phorm is looking ever more pointless. They and their rich friends want Phorm. So only a widespread and easy to download technological solution has a hope of killing off Phorm style spying).

  5. Richard
    Thumb Down

    Stupidity. Pure stupidity..

    Why the hell don't Virgin use their collective intelligence and distance themselves from Phorm? The EU taking action has been on national news, more people are becoming aware of Phorm and realsie they don't want it.

    Does Berkett not think that a formal announcement that they aren't deploying Phorm may result in a significant amount of BT subscribers jumping ship?

  6. Anonymous Coward


    >Virgin Media was seeking to replace Phorm

    Unless they replace it with a picture of a "kitteh" with an amusing "capshun", some nice boobies (and equivalent for those with a taste different to mine) or a discount on the bill of larger than 100%, they can Phuck right off.

    Seriously though, dumping Phorm is pretty much a necessity for them to survive, given the masses dumping them, and we can only hope that any "replacement" has a proper opt-in only system.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the hell don't Virgin use their collective intelligence

    does that question really need an answer??

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about surfinv via VPN?

    In general I am quite happy with Virgin Media (at the moment, there were bad times!!!) but since ADSL in my corner is very slow (I get 2.2Megs tops) and with VM I get 50M, it is a bit difficult.

    Alternative would be to share a root server with a few more people (I was thinking of a decent machine for about £70.--/mth)

    I found a few good offers in Germany:

    AMD Athlon 64 6000+, 6GB RAM, RAID1 with 2x 750GB, 100MB switched connection to a 72GB multi redundant backbone.

    the only downside is, that above 1TB the reduce the switch-port from 100MBdown to 10MB, although that can be increased again for €0.09 per GB, which sounds fair to me.

    I would love to see how Phorm do their deep packet inspection then..... ;-)

    Alternatively I will start setting up a meshed network in the neighbourhood. that would mean increased bandwidth for everyone, (at least for those who would be willing to share their POI.

  9. Andy Livingstone

    Oh, good one.

    "Why the hell don't Virgin use their collective intelligence " Now that's a bigger joke even than the budget. Two more brain cells amongst them and they would graduate to vegetables.

    Comment based on personal experience.

  10. mike

    Goodbye ISP

    I'll have to ditch Virgin then. Not just at home, we'll have to reconsider the 40-odd broadband installations we have for our student accommodation, particularly if phorm are going to be making money out of our users. A global per-connection opt-out will be required versus the per-browser, per-machine, per-connection fantasy world they are living in.

    another point is that Phorm appears to inject 'relevant' advertising into unsuspecting websites, the website has absolutely no control over the advertising placed on their site and the advertising is generated based on the client user's surfing habits, um, I sense a problem here. What if the user likes a lot of porn then, decides to look at some non-porn sites. Would porn appear on the non-porn sites?

  11. Steve

    evil isp evil snoop

    A marriage made in heaven, Virgin and Phorm have so much in common, I think Virgin should buy them. :D

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Opt Out

    How does a web site owner opt out from in being included in Phorm's system?

    Do I have to contact them by email or is there a submissions page?

    Is there a meta tag or robots.txt exclusion that can tell them where to go?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Just cus its the interweb

    If I created a system that listened to phonecalls and picked out keywords, so I could later phone the person and try to sell to them, and had the teleco install it to monitor every one of their customers voice calls it would be jail time for them. So how come it's allowed on computers?

  14. unicus

    VM can't annouce they've ditched Phorm...

    ...but that doesn't mean they haven't internally. They have signed a contract, that undoubtedly they can't reveal details of, which means they have to stick with the same "we're still looking at it" line even - as I suspect - they've already decided not to go with Phorm's DPI crap.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two things.

    First, Virgin have not said 'We are going to use Phorm'. What they are saying is 'We are not yet saying that we are not going to use Phorm,' and they've been saying it for months. It may be a question of them waiting to get their timing exactly right so there's as little chance as possible for Phorm to set lawyers on them for breach of anything (the perfect time, of course, would be when Phorm ceases to exist). Not that users should be content with Virgin's stance on the matter yet, of course.

    Second, AudienceScience != Phorm.

    AudienceScience does not do DPI. AudienceScience tracks at the website, which adds AudienceScience content to its pages. It does not sniff a user's connection at ISP level.It's annoying, but not illegal, and can be easily stopped by not visiting such sites, disabling or scrambling cookies, making use of such tools as ABP, RIP, TACO, etc.

    Phorm sniffs a user's connection and hence his entire internet traffic at ISP level. It is unethical and illegal, and it must be stopped. End of.

  16. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Bottom of the Phorm

    Our exchange has just been LLU'd. I should now be able to get a better high-download limit service than Virgin's ADSL service (everybody else running through BT Wholesale had hard limits that either could not be exceeded, or cost a fortune if you do go over).

    After being a Virgin ISP customer for 12 years, I think the time to switch has come at last.

  17. Dave

    Opt Out

    Still waiting for a comment on El Reg's decision to opt out of Phorm...

  18. Jay
    Thumb Down

    Hello Phorm =

    = Goodbye Virgin

    If they decide to adopt this (or any other "behavioural ad targeting system") then they're going to get dumped.

    Given the strength of feeling against this you do have to wonder what's in it for the ISPs to go along with it - are the backhanders and suchlike worth the lost customer revenue?

    Or they may be relying on the majority of their customers being of the kind that think "The Internet is a blue e" and they'll happily sleepwalk into it?

    Does make me wonder though if there's another agenda behind this other than just money (and Old Boy Network handshaking) - once they've got profiling in place "for advertisments", what's to stop them (or say, the government) using it for snooping on the public? Not that this is the kind of government that would use serious anti-terror laws to check up on people putting bins out on the wrong day or anythng..... oh wait...


    Speaking of forum icons, can we get a Wacki Jacki?

  19. Peter Dunkley


    It wouldn't be a bad idea to boycott any site that doesn't opt out. I can get everything I need from Amazon and Wikipedia....

  20. Arclight

    Existing law

    I might be wrong here, but isn't there a UK law that prohibits the interception of information not intended for you? It's intended to stop people using radio equipment to snoop in on Police radio traffic, and mobile phones, but could it be applied to this?

    Any data transfered between me and a website server is a communication between myself and that server. Phorm/Virgin would be intercepting that data with out my permission.

  21. Sean Bailey

    Called Virgin last month

    Got through to their second line support and took the oppurtunity to ask about Phorm.

    I got it from the (Scottish) chap there that Phorm *was* going to be introduced but no timescale yet, I confirmed this with a couple of times before the end of the call.

    Already let them know that as soon as the system gets a date to be implemented I'm binng tv, home phone and cable connection in favour a company that won't spy on me for their own profit

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wouldn't hestitate

    To Dump Virgin Media for ever if they introduced this data parasite into their system. They must have rocks in their tiny heads to have been so evasive for so long. And so long it will be if they adopt Phorms Webwise crap into my data.

  23. Will

    Phorm technology

    Can we stop referring to Phorm's intrusions as "technology". As I understand it they just put a packet sniffer at a really fundamental level on an ISP's network. Then browsed everyone's cookies and bounced them if they weren't well phormed.

    Glad I wasn't a victim, if you whitelist cookies it appears they bounce you forward and back for a while before finally giving you your requested connection.

    Anyway - it's not their technology, just their behaviour with our technology.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @How about surfinv via VPN?

    Thats still going to through up ads. As their advertising system sites between you. And the VPN. Unless the VPN connection is encrypted of course ;)

  25. Marcus

    @How does a web site owner opt out

    Here's the site to go to ensure that your website is not scanned by the Phorm spyware-in-the-network system...

  26. Andy Watt

    Phorm are dying - rejoice.

    Phorm are trying to fight back but apparently their stroppy-sounding site is not winning them any plaudits -

    "The decision to publish this site feels to me like a sign that Phorm is dying, and this is one of its final throes." (quote from the guardian article)

    This is truly a victory for people power. Let's keep it up and "smear" these bastards into a greasy stain - and any others who seek to try to use the same technology. It's not smearing; if the public does not want something then they DO NOT WANT IT - and you cannot blind them with science in an attempt to foist the tech on them.

    Recent revelations through FOI regarding Phorm's collusion with the home office over the legislation for behavioural advertising show the government simply can't be trusted to know what this technology is about - we, the tech-literati people MUST keep dogging Phorm and their ilk out of existence.

    Virgin: RECONSIDER.

  27. Damien Thorn

    no they didnt

    Virgin are not stupid, they wont publically denounce something, neither have any of the other big companies, amazon merely said "no thanks"

    Does that mean virgin would use phorm? Well after its made news headlines, been accussed of interfering with the government, a privacy invasion, has someone in the EU wanting legal action what do you think they will do?

    Even if all the stories were true or false, the bad publicity is something NO company big or small would want to be associated with, and old branson might be eccentric, but hes no fool, he didnt make billions by killing his companies, there is no way virgin will run phorm now, but they wont publically say it because

    They just dont behave like that, business is business, but we customers wish the hell they would say it, why cant they just turn round and give a simple

    "virgin did look into phorm, we decided it was not for our customers, and on we go doing what we kinda might do best if virgin media is an example of the best they do"

    That last bit dont make sense, but neither do virgin media at the best of times.

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