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All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Communications Inquiry and Phorm’s Response

From: Jamie Dowling
To: John Robertson MP, Derek Wyatt MP, Phil Willis MP
Date: 24/04/2009 11:19
Subject: All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Communications Inquiry and Phorm’s Response

“As Co-chairmen and Vice Chairman of the aforementioned Committee, I am sure you are aware that the Committee will be approached by Phorm, a company with which you may already have had some dealings.  Phorm will no doubt want to respond to your inquiry, and with good reason.

I should like to bring to your attentions this press release which is featured on the front page of Phorm’s website (http://www.phorm.com – the left side of the page):

Phorm website front page 240409
“We look forward to working with the Group, some of whose members we have met in the last year. In those meetings and going forward we will be happy to explain the enormous potential of Phorm’s internet advertising service with its industry leading privacy standards.” and “We shall be in touch with John Robertson, MP and Derek Wyatt, MP in due course to make arrangements to offer our expert opinion.”

The submission requirements are clearly detailed by the Committee Secretariat and have been repeated in weblogs and internet forums. It is my understanding that they are sufficiently clear and do not require any making of “arrangements”.

This smacks of a PR based attempt by Phorm to try and gain preferential access to the Committee and relaxed terms of submission.  By naming Mr Robertson and Mr Wyatt specifically in their statement rather than using “the Committee” I am concerned that they are trying to create an association between yourselves and Phorm which does not exist.

The Committee Secretariat has confirmed that “all responses submitted to the apComms inquiry will be required to adhere to exactly the same requirements as set out in the press release” for which I am grateful.  With such complex and contraversial issues being discussed it is vital that the Committee be and be seen to be completely impartial and balanced at all times.

I must respectfully ask for your assurances that:

  • There are no associations, links or connections of any sort between yourselves and Phorm.
  • Phorm will be advised that initial submissions are to be made in writing as per the detailed specification now in the public domain and that no “arrangements” beyond that submission need to be made.  It will be the Committee’s impartial decision as to the invitees to give evidence on 15th and 17th June.
  • Phorm will not be granted any meeting with any Committee member until and unless representatives from Phorm are invited to give oral evidence to the Committee on 15th and 17th June.
  • Any attempts by Phorm to provide additional submissions or evidence outside of the submission allowed to them will be rebuffed and that such will be recorded.

I would also suggest that you advise Phorm to reword their release to remove the names of Mr Robertson and Mr Wyatt, replacing them with “The Committee” and removing the phrase “We shall be in touch with John Robertson, MP and Derek Wyatt, MP in due course to make arrangements to offer our expert opinion”.  This phrase should be accepted by Phorm as now irrelevant as no meetings whatsoever before the submission date will be held.

In asking for these assurances I do not seek to question the impartiality or integrity of Committee members.

Do please reply if there is any part of this e-mail that needs clarification.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to your reply and to completing my submission to the Committee.

Yours most sincerely

Jamie Dowling”

The Phorm website now simply carries the first few lines of that statement with a link to a PDF file.  The text in that statement appears to be unchanged from what was on the website.

Just to spell it out to Phorm again:

The submission requirements are clearly detailed by the Committee Secretariat and have been repeated in weblogs and internet forums. It is my understanding that they are sufficiently clear and do not require any making of “arrangements”.

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