Thanks to @NoDPI for highlighting this potentially disturbing and Phormesque sounding development from Telefonica, owners of the O2 and Giffgaff mobile phone services in the UK. A report in The Guardian details how the company is “developing technology which listens in on personal calls to draw up a psychological profile of a speaker according to their tone of voice”. Continue Reading →
I’ve done a lot of clearing up other peoples’ mess in my life and career. Most of these messes were the result of people ignoring my advice, things going pear shaped (as I had said they would) and then being asked if I would remedy the now fouled up situation. I’m sure those of you who are or have worked as techies for any length of time know the sort of people I mean.
When things really went titsup I was often asked to not only help clean up the mess but do so in a way that ensured the titsup situation would never happen again. Those responsible for things going titsup in the first place would wail their innocence and protest that things should be done differently but never actually front up with a positive suggestion in the face of my action plan.
So it is that I have some empathy for the Coalition government as it looks to clear up the mess that Labour left behind it. Under the Labour government, the UK state had ballooned into a seedy, control freak sumo wrestler who got his kicks from sticking his nose into every part of peoples’ lives, failing to protect the people they are supposed to serve from deliberate illegal acts and attempting to spread fear and misinformation about groups like photographers.
As the election campaigning continues, there are some people who need setting straight on Labour’s failures over the Phorm case. It’s not rocket science. It is not a matter of “intervening in private business” as some would suggest. It is a matter of enforcing the law.
Correct me if I’m wrong but if the law is broken then action must be taken against the lawbreaker. The status of the business or persons involved is irrelevant. Legality isn’t an emotive issue, it is one of fact. So here are a few facts and a few questions for Labour and its supporters.
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.
The Phorm AGM draws ever closer. Phorm’s website has been overhauled to remove the names of directors who have quit the company and to finally remove their pathetic moaning slur campaign site. News of these changes has gone mainstream now, featuring the departures of Stratis Scleparis and David Sawday.
There are still inconsistencies and questions to be asked, especially of BT. The company which claims the highest ethical standards has still to answer questions about what Mike Galvin told the ICO and has two contradictory pages about Webwise (Phorm’s “product”) on its website.
Enough for the moment of BT and their lack of honesty. This post is about Phorm. This morning they announced their interim results for the six months to 30th June 2009.
A loss of $15 million.
In the current economic climate a loss of $15 million might not seem much to some people. When you don’t have any income streams because your “product” is of very dubious legality you will keep losing money. You can read the press release for yourselves if you wish.
It reminds me of the Iraqi Information Minister in its optimism in the face of people realising the truth about Phorm. Nowhere in that statement does the word “legal” feature. As in “Our product is legal and here is the verifiable opinion confirming that”. Maybe the AGM will be the place where Kent comes out and finally answers this simple yet basic question.
Phorm’s board can believe whatever it wants.
Remember the share price: over £34 in February 2008. Now at £1.50?
Remember the smear campaign?
Remember Virasb Vahidi (former Chief Operating Officer of Phorm) claiming “We actually can see the entire Internet.”?
Remember Kent Ertugrul’s comments “The problem for newspapers is that a story headlined ‘Two Dead in Baghdad’ isn’t very product-friendly. But if you know who is looking at the page, that’s where the opportunity is.” ?
Phorm’s Board would do well to discuss these issues and questions I’ve already mentioned at the Phorm AGM. It would show at least some grasp of real world issues and events.
Finally there’s one more point. It’s a little one but it is very important.
It doesn’t matter who you’ve got trying to foist your “product” onto other people, the law is the law.