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Phorm PR Contact

Who’d have thought it? My first blog related e-mail coming not phrom an annoyed Shoaib Akhtar supporter but phrom Phorm’s PR people. Well, one of the PR companies Phorm has employed. Either I’m getting lots of pingbacks and links or someone went hunting for blogs mentioning Phorm, found mine and thought “Let’s e-mail Jamie!”.

Matters Phorm-related have kept appearing in the news since my post on 2nd April. There’s a phull round-up on The Register’s Phorm page and I’ll add the various campaigning sites and forums I’ve seen to my blogroll.

I’ve done a lot of reading about Phorm over the last phew days and I think it’s starting to show in my writing!

Some analysis follows along with the e-mail correspondence.

A couple of brief impact points for you:

Phorm got caught editing its own Wikipedia article and admitted “that it deleted key factual parts of the Wikipedia article about the huge controversy fired by its advertising profiling deals”. After The Register reported the news Phorm got in touch with them and said “we accept that we were a little over zealous in our efforts to make those corrections and that we erroneously removed some relevant items in the editing process”.

Make of that statement what you will. Personally the PR professionals I do know would, if they were Japanese, probably have committed seppuku by now had they been caught in the way Phorm’s PR people were. Humiliating is the word that comes to mind.

Dr Richard Clayton of the FIPR recently visited Phorm and posted his thoughts and conclusions. He is still convinced that Phorm is illegal. Then Phorm took an interesting interpretation of Dr Clayton’s findings which neglected to mention his criticisms, and when challenged by Dr Clayton was quickly corrected and blamed on a “tech glitch”.

That’s two foul ups by well paid PR people in a few days?

Here’s a letter from Daljit Bhurji of the Under Strict Embargo blog which points out another mistake the PR people have made.

The role of the ICO in all this – they are supposed to be the guardians of personal data and act when the law is broken and haven’t done much to this point – has come under scrutiny as well. Especially when it “wrote” a report which could have been written by Phorm itself. That did not go down well with a lot of people.

Then suddenly the ICO “grew a pair” (as my American friends like to say) and amended their report. The new version insists that Phorm must be opt-in only to comply with the law.

With all this going on I’ve had plenty to think about. As well as the various presences of Phorm’s PR in forums and their interpretations of opinions. I’ve learned many things from the various people with whom I’ve worked over the years. One of the most important things is that what you do and how you behave reflects on your reputation. Respect, openness and honesty are things I value from the people I choose to do business with.

I’ve got to say I don’t see that with Phorm.

So, like Political Penguin has, I’ve come to a conclusion.

My conclusion is that legal or not, Phorm offers nothing of value to me. Firefox has anti phising tools. I’ve been online in one form or another since 1990, so I’m confident I can spot a scam. Where is the added value for me? If I want a product the chances are I will go straight to a specialist supplier or ask friends for advice on suppliers. Online ads do nothing for me. I don’t use them. I’m programmed to avoid and ignore advertising.

Some very eminent people have been discussing this issue and believe that Phorm is illegal and BT have acted illegally in their secret trials. I’m no lawyer but the arguments behind these beliefs look convincing to me.

Anyway, the e-mails. Duly edited to protect identities. This arrived on April 4th 2008.

“Hi Jamie

As you may well have guessed from the title and my email, I am one of the PR team for Phorm here at Citigate.

Based on your posting activity and obvious evident interest in Phorm, would you be interested in meeting up with one of the senior management team? Face to face gives you a chance to put the questions direct, or if need be, we can sort via phone.

Be interested in your thoughts”

Remember that earlier I wrote

“My first blog related e-mail coming not phrom an annoyed Shoaib Akhtar supporter but phrom Phorm’s PR people. Well, one of the PR companies Phorm has employed. Either I’m getting lots of pingbacks and links or someone went hunting for blogs mentioning Phorm, found mine and thought “Let’s e-mail Jamie!”.

Maybe I’ve been hunted down for a possible rent a quote? Or to become a voice for Phorm?

Anyone who knows me knows that the poster about spin on my humour page is a passionate belief of mine.

So my reply goes like this:

“Dear [xxxx],

Thank you for your e-mail. I’ve watched with interest some of the many discussions in forums all round the web before coming to a decision. I’m sure you know there has been concern about how news and opinions have been spun by people claiming to speak on Phorm’s behalf. I note especially the comments made by Dr Richard Clayton and Alexander Hanff as well as the many comments pages on The Register.

The discussion ongoing in the public domain involves people who are more knowledgeable and eminent than I. Given the comments and concerns already mentioned I don’t see how a phone call or one to one meeting could positively contribute to the ongoing discussion. I prefer to make my decisions on what I see happening rather than what people tell me. Something I learned from two excellent leaders in their field.

I must therefore decline your invitation and respectfully suggest that openly and honestly answering the issues and concerns raised in the public domain would be a better approach than the one I’ve seen on The Register and in other forums.

I note that 80/20 Thinking have organised a public meeting for next Tuesday. I will be interested to see if the meeting will be recorded and posted online and unedited for those whose lives aren’t based around London to see.

Thanks and kindest regards,

Jamie Dowling”

Ultimately some of the questions about legality may well be decided by the courts. Questions and concerns have been raised. They need answering clearly, openly and honestly in the public domain.

It’s not much to ask. Is it?

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