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A Challenge To Ian Livingston: Back Up Your Words With Proof

The BT Corporate website has a section entitled “The Way We Work“.  It makes interesting reading.  It’s good, solid stuff I’d expect to see from companies determined to show that acting ethically is inherent in everything they do. It’s the kind of stuff I’d expect to see from the Co-Op, an organisation I have come to know and respect over the years.

But this is BT we’re talking about.

The company that has secretly and illegally tested Phorm’s technology on their users.  The company that has repeatedly denied the testing until confronted with the evidence.  The company that has banned any discussion of Phorm from its support forums.

This is BT’s Statement Of Business Practice by Ian Livingston, BT Group CEO.  Emphasis here is mine.

BT’s business principles – or ground rules – provide guidance on how to compete fairly, deal with conflicts of interest, act within the law, manage risks, protect the environment etc. They also challenge us to consider other facets of our behaviour – our relations with one another, our customers and with the communities we serve.

BT operates globally in markets with close regulatory and legal supervision. However, even more important than that are our values and ethics, both personal and corporate. Each of us must seek to ensure that we always live these values in the way we work, and act with integrity at all times. Your personal actions make a difference no matter what part of the company you are in.

Our reputation for acting with integrity strengthens each time we stick to our business principles. This might mean that we have to reject potential new business if it looks as though it would force us to compromise. A tough call but one that BT people should make if it’s appropriate.

If you experience any difficulties – if you are not sure what the right thing to do would be in any given situation – just ask. Have the courage to speak up if you are worried that any activities conflict with our way of working.

I truly believe that a successful company is one that acts with integrity, sticks to its core values and earns the trust and respect of its peers. It is a company that customers want to do business with, that shareholders want to invest in and that we can all be proud to work for.

These words do not tie in with the behaviour of BT and its involvement with Phorm.

Some of the full business principles deserve examination too.

We will act within the law, our licensing/authorisations obligations and any other regulations.

Protect our brand, physical, financial and intellectual assets.

Protect the confidentiality of company, employee and customer information.

Be truthful, helpful and accurate in our communication.

The EU says BT didn’t act within the law when you secretly tested Phorm’s technology on your users.

BT’s brand is now like that of Virgin Media, plummeting in the public perception and losing worth and value.  In no small part down to its association with Phorm.

How does BT’s testing of and involvement with Phorm protect customer information?

If BT is truthful, helpful and accurate in its communication then why did BT deny its secret testing of Phorm’s technology?  Why has BT deleted threads discussing Phorm from its support forums?

One of the excellent leaders with whom I had the privilege of working has a vision for the sector in which he works.  That vision drives him and integrates with his ethical standards which are of the highest standard.  Working on a change programme he quoted Gandhi

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

This is one of the rules he lives his life by.

My challenge to Ian Livingston is along those lines.  Your words on their own mean nothing.  If you are a man of honour then you must be the living embodiment of those words.

And you can start right now by being completely open and honest about BT’s involvement with Phorm and acknowledging BT’s illegal actions in its testing of Phorm’s technology.  If you truly care about behaving ethically and protecting customer information then I challenge you to do what the Guardian did – dump Phorm and make a public statement confirming it.

The ball is now in your court, Mr Livingston.

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