Like a bad case of the clap, peddler of advertising powered by illegal use of DPI technology Phorm has resurfaced. This time in Brazil. NoDPI picked up on it too and their analyses of things are always worth reading.
This isn’t all that much of a surprise. After its secret trials with BT were exposed by Chris Williams at The Register, Phorm failed to provide any proof that its Webwise “product” was fully compliant with UK and EU law. Phorm also engaged PR companies to try and obfuscate discussions on technical forums. The techies didn’t take this lying down and the resulting backlash and grass roots campaign hit Phorm hard. Shares that were worth £35 plummeted to around £1.
Phorm had done itself few favours with its failure to engage in open and honest discussion with the UK internet user community. The smear campaign website they came up with was as pathetic a thing as I have seen on the internet. And I’ve been around a fair bit. With the European Commission’s legal action happening in the background and the anti-DPI campaign still as vocal as ever, Phorm decided to “concentrate their efforts elsewhere”. Or in more common parlance head off somewhere where they would get less of a kicking.
Regular readers will know this. If you’re new to the Phorm story then please read through my postings about Phorm. There’s some very interesting stuff there.
So Phorm have resurfaced in Brazil. Much as it’s tempting to mention something about certain war criminals from a defeated regime hiding in South America, I won’t. For the moment.
In Brazil word is starting to spread about Phorm’s previous history (translation here) in spyware and the backlash against Phorm here in the UK. Phorm just don’t understand that privacy is an issue for people all over the world. Or they just don’t care.
In the UK Phorm tried very very hard to push their illegal use of DPI technology through as legal. That they haven’t succeeded – despite the use of lobbying government departments, “reputation management” bully boys and shedloads of PR – is because of excellent investigative journalism from Chris Williams and people like Alex Hanff (now Head Of Ethical Networks at Privacy International) and the folk at NoDPI spreading the word, campaigning and challenging politicians to protect internet users’ privacy and enforce the law.
Kent Ertugrul might well have forgotten my challenge to him. It still stands nearly two years later.
If you know anyone in Brazil I urge you to warn them about the huge to privacy posed by Phorm.
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.
Continue Reading →
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.
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.
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 failure to produce a legal opinion to back your corner?
Remember the claim that government had given legal backing to your “product” when it hadn’t?
Remember the smear campaign?
Remember the legal bullying over a phone number you had already published in the public domain?
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.” ?
Remember the various rejections you have had from companies like Orange, The Guardian, Amazon, LiveJournal, Wikipedia and the Nationwide?
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.