Like a nasty strain of venereal disease that just won’t go away, Phorm somehow seems to keep hanging on and showing up somewhere that hasn’t encountered its unpleasantness. Kent Ertugrul’s company is said to be looking at China (a nice match that as China is no fan of privacy) and is trialling in Brazil. Of course what Kent calls trialling and what you or I would call trialling may well be two very different things.
Let’s be honest here, veracity isn’t something Phorm have a very good track record in. There has been some discussion on internet forums in Brazil about Phorm and its invasive (and illegal under UK and EU law) product. Then of course there’s the smear campaign website. In short there’s nothing about Phorm to indicate that they are trustworthy in any respect.
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2009 nears its end and I for one won’t be sorry to see the back of it. There have been some very enjoyable high points including the Ashes win, the test win this morning, a wedding in my family and Phorm being all but forced out of the UK but overall 2009 will be a year I remember as a year in which far too many people lacked Clue, balls and ethics.
Some might accuse me of being a Grumpy Old Man. According to the series I am now in the age bracket for being a Grumpy so there may be some truth to the suggestion. My response to that is that I’m not grumpy, I’m a realist and some of what I see is less than pleasing, often lacking in Clue, ethics, common sense and the other attributes I used to expect from those in positions of power and influence. Now I just expect self centredness, obsession with protecting the vested interests and the status quo and control freakery trying to interfere in areas where the state has no right to.
I’m not the only one. Guy Aitchison has written his review of the year. It’s well worth reading; it highlights other areas where government and authorities have failed or fell victim to control freakery or halfwittedness.
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Phorm and the UK “government” might just come to realise that the backlash against internet snooping and illegal DPI based advertising is a serious one.
The EU has announced that it is moving to the second phase of its proceedings against the UK government over its failure to enforce laws protecting internet users’ privacy.
The Register starts its report on this story thus:
The UK government today came a step closer to international embarrassment over its failure to act against BT and Phorm for their secret trials of mass internet snooping technology.The European Commission said it had moved to the second stage of infringement proceedings after the trials, revealed by The Register, exposed failings in the UK’s implementation of privacy laws.
BT and Phorm intercepted and profiled the web browsing of tens of thousands of broadband subscribers without their consent in trials in 2006 and 2007.
The furore generated by the scandal forced Phorm to withdraw from the UK market, but police and the Information Commissioner’s Office both declined to take any action against the firms.
One might have thought that this news would be worthy of discussion at Phorm’s upcoming AGM. But I doubt that will happen. After all Kent Ertugrul has yet to respond to my challenge to publish a verifiable legal opinion backing the legality of his Webwise “product”. It’s been about 18 months since I made that challenge.
The comments after El Reg’s report are good stuff and one or two have suggested that those involved in collaboration with BT and Phorm could well get away with their involvement in breaking the law. That must not be allowed to happen. As I said in my submission to the APComms Inquiry (report is a PDF document)
Jamie Dowling felt that enforcing the law was important, even for events in the past that might not recur:
The failure of government and watchdogs to enforce existing law in relation to the 2006 and 2007 secret testing by BT and Phorm provided a seed from which a very strong campaign has emerged.
Government must enforce the law wherever it is broken, regardless of whether an individual or a corporation has broken the law. Government has a duty to respect and enforce European law to which it is a signatory. It has failed to do that and rightly faces legal action for that failure.
Nazi war criminals are still prosecuted for their crimes from years ago. Other criminals are prosecuted for their crimes in previous years. Why shouldn’t those involved in allowing these crimes to happen face judicial process?
Those involved in the collaboration with BT and Phorm, whoever they are, whatever their status and regardless of for whom they were working must face the courts.
Cricket fans will know the test match to which I allude here.
It’s the summer of 1990 at Lord’s. England are playing India. Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin wins the toss and invites England to bat.
Captain and opening batsman Graham Gooch takes the Indian attack for 333 runs in an England first innings total of 653/4.
After the match Mohammad Azharuddin insisted that his decision to insert England was the right one. Even though Gooch hammered another 123 runs in his second innings and England won by some distance. When an opposition batsman hits 450-plus off your bowling, you’ve made a big mistake. You might not be keen to publicly admit it even though the rest of the world can see it’s a big mistake but it remains a big mistake nonetheless.
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The FT reports that Phorm has announced that it has put its plans for the UK on hold, preferring to concentrate its efforts on other markets.
This comes after the rescheduling of the Phorm AGM, the departures of two executives, interim results showing a loss of $15 million over the 6 months to 30th June 2009 and a comprehensive overhaul of its websites to try and hide its attempts at smears and its laughable claims of governmental approval.
The FT article makes no mention of the legal and privacy issues which have been highlighted by the backlash against Phorm and other peddlers of similar DPI based solutions which are strongly argued to be illegal under UK law because they intercept communications without a judicial warrant. So the FT gets a big fat FAIL thrown at it. The Times has a brief report on Phorm’s results but also fails to mention these issues. More poor journalism there. FAIL. A better article comes from Charles Arthur at The Guardian.
Phorm have never published a verifiable legal opinion supporting their product’s legality under UK and EU law despite being challenged to do so. Phorm worked alongside BT to undertake secret tests of their technology on BT Internet’s customer base during 2006 and 2007. BT have never published a verifiable legal opinion supporting their secret tests.
Phorm’s decision to put its UK plans on hold can only be seen as a victory for the very people Phorm tried to smear, slur and bully, the people they branded “Privacy Pirates” and The Register whom they branded “a mouthpiece”. But it is only a partial victory.
This decision smacks of a recognition that they are in trouble. Not just financially but legally as well. This smacks of desperately hoping that if they keep a low profile things might just blow over. Phorm may try to keep a low profile, rebuild and come back stronger.
It does not alter the fact that Webwise is illegal under UK and EU law.
There is a reckoning to be had. Executives from BT and Phorm must be brought to full legal account for the thousands of privacy breaches they orchestrated. “Government”, ICO, Police and CPS staff who were complicit in allowing Phorm & BT to proceed without due diligence on their part must also be brought to book.
Nothing less will be acceptable.