Phiting Dirty

Deep Packet Inspection outfit Phorm is busy covering itself with glory today. This morning we had the Freedom of Information revelation that contrary to previous statements, the Home Office not only advised Phorm on the legality of its service, but in fact afforded Phorm the opportunity to edit the Home Office advice before it was released.

Then we saw the launch of www.stopphoulplay.com, a website set up by Phorm to name and smear the ‘privacy pirates‘, who “appear to be determined to harm our company”. The purpose of the site seems to be to plant the idea in people’s minds that the only reason that privacy campaigners object to Phorm’s DPI technologies is because Phorm’s competitors are paying them to do so.

Any chance we had of trusting what’s been said by either Phorm or the Home Office on the topic of DPI is now completely lost. I would have expected a company working on something so sensitive to have demonstrated much greater transparency in its approach to market – as I’ve said before, I don’t actually have a problem with what Phorm is trying to achieve, I have a problem with how it’s going about it.

But Phorm’s actions have forced me to climb off the fence and make my new position clear: I object to Phorm’s technologies and will be asking them not to profile visitors to my website. I will not use an ISP that participates in the Webwise service, even if there is an opt-out. I will avoid visiting websites that are early adopters of Phorm’s technologies. And I will urge my friends to do the same until I see a change in attitude from Phorm’s management.

[For the avoidance of doubt, my opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of either Computer Weekly or the Enterprise Privacy Group and its member organisations].

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It should be noted that the documents referred to by Baroness Miller and certain other people, which reference conversations involving the Home Office were posted here: https://www.dephormation.org.uk/index.php?page=12 last year. This is rather an old story and one that is being spun out of all proportions. One has to ask why now when the anti-Phorm lobby have been in receipt of this information for nearly a year?
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Interesting - I wasn't aware of that, thank you. That said, it doesn't change my view that Phorm has made a mistake, and I would add that I don't believe there's an 'anti-Phorm lobby' - what we have are people upset at the invasion of their privacy through DPI technologies that have not been deployed in a sufficiently open or transparent manner.
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I tried to communicate the Home Office issue to politicians last year. I guess I did a poor job of it. The Reg certainly covered the story. Fortunately Phil Main is much better at writing letters than I am, and I applaud his success. The Home Office relationship collusion with Phorm is a scandal. They did not bother to consult with the IT industry, before writing a policy document to suit the needs of Phorm.
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This new 'smear' website Phorm have setup is a complete disgrace. It is an attack on private individuals the likes of which I wouldn't expect from a company trying to convince people to trust them with their internet browsing history. As the person who created the petition against Phorm on the 10 downing street website I can certainly prove that the section on this website about the petition is completely wrong. They portray the petition as something that was thought up by 'Privacy Pirates' (Whatever that means ?), claim it desecrates the long history in this country of petitions and then claim the petition was completely missleading by infering that Phorm was illegal. Ok, so to set the record straight, I created the petition myself as a private UK citizen. I have had no contact with any other 'Privacy Pirates' when creating the petition, it was never worded in such a way as to cause anything missleading about Phorm or the Privacy issue. If you read the text of the petition it does NOT state that Phorm is illegal, it petitions the government to investigate Phorm, and IF found to be illegal then ban it's use, as well as asking for a review of privacy laws. I have had very little to do with most of the campaign against Phorm, other than creating the petition and posting a couple of vids on youtube to get the word out. I've never met or spoken to any of the named 'Privacy Pirates' such as Alex Hanff, and the petition was certainly not created as some organised attempt at damaging Phorm. Sorry to bang on about the petition, but if Phorm have got it so wrong about this one particular section, it leaves me wondering how wrong have they got all the other information on this website? I hope Phorm see sense, I would like to see nothing more than the website pulled and replaced with a public apology to those people named and insulted on the website, as well as an apology for insinuating that I attempted to desecrate the very principle of petitioning. I was simply exercising my right as a UK citizen to petition my Government on an issue I felt was important (and it turned out over 20,000 other people thought so too). For Phorm to characterise it the way they have with this website, well it is just plain insulting and I think it shows the true nature of the company
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Whilst not being personally named on that derogatory Phorm website, as a signatory of the No.10 petition against Phorm, writer of letters to my MP, MEP, and the EU Commission, I take great offence at the personal attacks clearly aimed at private individuals such as myself for being concerned about online privacy and the way this technology is being implemented by certain ISP's with total disregard for their customers. Calling people 'pirates' and 'serial agitators' is nothing short of slander and is certainly not the best way to go about improving your image. Unfortunately this is largely how the new 'phoul' website reads. And to top it all there is no opportunity to reply to those slanderous remarks. Phorm's credibility must now have sunk lower than the Titanic. Considering the negative publicity that 'phoul' site is receiving I rather fear it is a huge PR 'own goal'.
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"It should be noted that the documents referred to by Baroness Miller and certain other people, which reference conversations involving the Home Office were posted here: https://www.dephormation.org.uk/index.php?page=12 last year. This is rather an old story and one that is being spun out of all proportions. One has to ask why now when the anti-Phorm lobby have been in receipt of this information for nearly a year?" Here's a point of order for you, and forgive me for only answering this here and not on all of the other blogs you are posting this exact same message on in a bid to obfuscate matters. What does it matter? However you perceive it to be spun in no way detracts from the truth of the information. This was covered last year and questions were asked. The fact that it has only recently come to the attention of mainstream media means that now there is more coverage of the story that Phorm and the ICO statements in the past are contrary to the truth. The story has just gone bigger rather than being 'spun' now.
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