Bad phorm as company website attacks critics

28 April 2009

Phorm have been criticised on numerous occasions for their approach to privacy, as they bid to revolutionise online advertising by targetting users based on their usage. The thrust of the concerns stem from Phorm doing deals with ISPs to collect personal date, thereby bypassing the privacy rights of individual users. According to a spokesperson for Phorm, even if a user opts out of involvement, information about their browsing activities would still be processed. Needless to say, it's a complex and never-ending arguement, one that has involved court cases and created a world of fury online.

Regardless, Phorm are a big US company earning millions from their products. So what happens when they start finding the pressure from critics too much? Most in their position would ignore it. Not Phorm. They create a website that attacks them - Stop Phoul Play - to "expose the smear and set out the true story, so that you can judge the facts for yourself". It then proceeds to rake the muck on named individuals who it deems to have caused it trouble by questioning its product and intent:

So that's the record "set straight" by Phorm then, despite the fact that in the past they've been caught in the act of favourably editing their own Wikipedia entry. It ultimately feels likes the biggest PR blunder ever signed-off, and far from dousing the fire, it'll only fan the flames.

Meanwhile there are seven shades of shit kicking off as a Freedom of Information request has proven an ongoing dialogue between Phorm and the Home Office. The exchange between the two parties began in 2007, and according to the BBC shows the Home Office requesting advice from Phorm on its views regarding "behavioural targeted advertising, and making specific reference to Phorm's technology". WTF? So the Government was asking Phorm to have a hand in shaping the Government's strategy on Phorm's area of business?

Understandably, there aren't many people happy about the revelation, including the Open Rights Group which has just published a statement saying: "We condemn this approach to law enforcement. The Home Office’s job is to uphold the law, not to reinterpret it for commercial interests.

"This revelation is yet another reason why major websites should make a stand for the rule of law and exercise their right to block Phorm from their websites."

19 comments

  • Russ
    Phorm really are a scary lot. The whole 'opt out' thing still tracks users, leaving all the cookie nonsense in the browser cache, but it just doesnt use the data it collects.... I think theyre missing the point of opting out!
  • Russ
    PS Theyre also the same people behind Media121 (remember those guys who gave us all free root-kits for our computers!) Wonder why they changed their name for this venture, lol.
  • Mike H.
    I'd like to phorm a turd and lay it on the doorstep of their headquarters, winkers!
  • Dave T.
    The goverment intend to use Phorm as a way of tracking internet activity - wake up these are BAD mofos
  • The B.
    You neglected to mention that the EU is now taking proceedings against her Majestys Government for failing to conform to EU privacy laws and for basically avoiding the issue on the 3 occasions they were asked by the EU what the hell was going on, all because HM Gov is well and truly in bed with Phorm and has said that everything they're doing is utterly illegal. At least you've credited the story to The Reg this time without simply lifting it lock stock.
  • Paul S.
    Um. The Register didn't break this story - in fact they reported on both the Phorm website and the FOI documents pretty much after everyone else today. We found the Phorm site directly from an individual on Twitter. We've credited The Register with a couple of important aspects of the story - not the story itself. As far as I'm aware, it was the BBC who broke the news of the FOI documents (credited and linked) and we called the Open Rights Group for a quote ourselves, which then appeared on their site. If you'd care to find a story we've lifted directly from The Register without crediting it, we'll gladly put that right since we try and credit every source we use. If we then go on to point out the original source of the story, or that the story was so widely reported that we didn't need feel the need to credit it to any one site, you can buy us all a pint.
  • ThePickards e.
    [...] Baldrick would have put it [a case of sour grapes]. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: Bitterwallet have their take on it, and of course do The Register (although it’s only fair, since Stop [...]
  • The m.
    "Phorm are a big US company earning millions from their products." Check their published accounts. I think you'll find they currently make zero from their products. AFAIK they are only just deploying for the first time, and that's in South Korea.
  • View N.
    [...] Bitterwallet: Phorm are a big US company earning millions from their products. So what happens when they start finding the pressure from critics too much? Most in their position would ignore it. Not Phorm. They create a website that attacks them to “expose the smear and set out the true story, so that you can judge the facts for yourself”. It then proceeds to rake the muck on named individuals who it deems to have caused it trouble by questioning its product and intent. [...]
  • The B.
    [...] of the net could change overnight if the mother influx hinted at in the film below gathers speed. Phorm will almost certainly have to start again from scratch. And the blogosphere will be transformed [...]
  • Phormaldehyde
    " Andy: Um. The Register didn’t break this story - in fact they reported on both the Phorm website and the FOI documents pretty much after everyone else today. ... As far as I’m aware, it was the BBC who broke the news of the FOI documents (credited and linked). " The news about the FOI documents was broken over a year ago (I can't say who wrote about it first, but the reg certainly covered it at the time). The mainstream media are now only picking up on it. Thank Phil Main if anyone
  • Paul S.
    No, the Register reported in June 2008 that a meeting had taken place between Phorm and the Home Office, which it had learnt as the result of a FOI request by a member of the public. At that time there was no detail given whatsoever, as the inquiry was ongoing: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/18/home_office_phorm_meetings/ In fact that report talks of a face-to-face meeting, so it may have been a different FOI request. Regardless, the detail concerning the existence of an ongoing dialogue between the two by email, and the contents - that had not been reported until yesterday, and it seems to have been reported first by the BBC. Again, if you know differently, please let us know and we'll make amends.
  • Phormaldehyde
    Andy, check https://www.dephormation.org.uk/index.php?page=12 for instance: " Second Formal Disclosure (August 2008) *updated* The second formal disclosure includes details of Home Office correspondence from unnamed sources (presumeably BT/Phorm) concerning Phorm as early as November 2006. At that time Phorm were trading under the name '121Media'. This document is also referenced in an article by The Register. FoI Response and Covering letter (179Kb) This is still not the final response - the Home Office are currently conducting a formal Internal Review. There is more information about these contacts in this third party FoI enquiry; Related FoI Response and Covering letter (271Kb) "
  • Phormaldehyde
    I'm not trying to be arsey btw, and I couldn't care less about "credit". Just saying that it's been known about the home office conversing with phorm (although not what they discussed) for a while.
  • A B.
    [...] started out as a twisted Valentine’s Day present in the form of an announcement by Phorm, a U.S. digital technology company. Phorm announced on Feb. 14 that it had signed deals with UK [...]
  • My L.
    Nice website dude Thank you
  • Rene P.
    Thanks, great find
  • kore
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