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Privacy Pirates Ahoy!

According to Phorm I am one of a band of  “privacy pirates”.

I suppose that “privacy pirate” is one of the more polite nicknames I’ve received over the years but like Devon Malcolm’s bowling at its most erratic it’s a little wide of the mark.  I suppose the difference between Devon Malcolm is that a) people like him and b) Devon is remembered for something special instead of something unpopular.

Some of us are “serial agitators” too.  Anyone who stirs their cereal in the morning is almost certainly a cereal agitator. But I’m not – I have yogurt for breakfast Kent.  There you go, Kent, some personal information for you.  Jamie has yogurt for breakfast.

So I’m a pirate then?  As in the Somali pirates?  Where is your evidence for that Kent?  For one thing the only weapon I have in my house is my archery bow.  I used to teach archery you know Kent.  So I’m quite good at aiming for and hitting a target.  As an archer I take my responsibilities for safety and conduct far more seriously than Phorm has its responsibilities for privacy.

In cricketing parlance you’ve just bowled a wide at me Kent.  I wonder what your bowling action would be?

So I’m a pirate then?  As in Bluebeard?  Sorrry Kent, I haven’t stabbed, shot, maimed or killed anyone.

Another wide.

Where are the slurs in VFPJ?  No slurs.  There are sincerely held beliefs, hard questions and the odd bit of humour here, but no baseless slurs.

Another wide.

Charles Arthur, on the other hand is bowling an interesting spell in The Guardian.

First it would have to demonstrate that there has been foul play – but judging by the website, which went live on Tuesday morning, the software company Phorm doesn’t have much to go on apart from its own continuing frustration at its critics.


But Phorm may have more immediate problems. Its accounts show that last year it lost $24.66m (£17m), and $16.3m in 2007, with no recorded revenue. Phorm is thus burning through its cash reserves (though it raised £32m last March); it urgently needs BT to roll out its technology across its broadband network and begin serving adverts. Otherwise there is the possibility that it will simply flame out, and a surviving company – perhaps BT itself? – may buy the technology on the cheap from the receivers.

Now that is an interesting point.  Whoever is peddling it, the use of Deep Packet Inspection in this way is still illegal.  Watch Dr Richard Clayton’s arguments if you don’t believe me.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Kent Ertugrul, Gene Hunt, Led Zeppelin, Nigella Lawson fronting the operation.  The law is the law.

Just ask Commissioner Vivian Reding.

If Phorm are running short of money, I’m hearing that this week’s EuroMillions lottery is an £89m rollover…


Giles Turnbull makes and keeps notes about things.  He’s made one about Phorm called Phorm’s Terrible, Terrible PR.  Here’s a snippet about his dealings with Phorm’s PR people:

I queried the cause for concern, and was subjected to complaints. Yes, I had made an error in my copy, saying that Phorm resulted in “more” advertising whereas in reality it’s just “more targeted to your personal habits and interests”. I apologised for that.

But the PR rep was determined. He whined about how Phorm’s message was being twisted and misrepresented. His tone suggested that my mildly-worded piece was a gross distortion of the truth and potentially damaging to the nature of journalism itself.

Undeterred, I made some comment about the nature of Phorm – the fundamental problem that everyone’s been complaining about from the start. You know, that niggling stuff about monitoring what internet users are doing, without giving them the basic courtesy of opting in to it.

He didn’t answer my point, ranted a little bit more, and ended the call.

At the time I thought to myself: “My word, they’re desperate aren’t they? Aggressive PR like that ain’t going to get them anywhere.”

And here we are, a year or so later, and the awful, cringe-making, vitriolic embarrassment that is Stop Phoul Play has raised its angry, spitting face out from the rock it was conceived beneath, ready to shout and hurl abuse at anyone and everyone who dares make a criticism.

So Giles hasn’t had a proper answer to his questions.  Just as I and others haven’t had answers to our questions.  Especially that niggling little question about that legal opinion.  That question must be a huge pain in the backside for Kent and Phorm.  And I’m going to keep asking it until I get an answer or until Phorm goes out of business.

Another question that comes to mind is “How many other journalists have received such phone calls?”  Then there’s “Which PR agency is responsible for these calls?”

You’ve got a choice, as Daljit Burjhi explains.

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