BT to ditch Phorm after public outcry


BT has dropped plans to continue with the hugely unpopular Phorm Webwise targeted advertising software.

The company, who has in the past been guilty of trialling the software without customers even knowing, has decided to drop out – apparently due to their commitment of investing £1.5bn into a super-fast broadband network for 10 million homes by 2012. It is reported that privately, however, bosses have become worried about the backlash against Phorm.

Phorm are playing down the damage caused by BT’s withdrawal – stating that there is still plenty of interest in their Webwise software. The BT decision comes on the back of a series of other knocks for Phorm though – Amazon, The Guardian, The FT and Wikipedia has all stated they won’t be using Phorm and the BBC also has also stated they are not currently interested.

(via The Guardian)

Home Office accused of Phorm collusion


The UK Home Office has been accused of being in bed with Phorm after emails have come to light that show the government asking if the ad-targeting firm would be “comforted” by its position.

The Home Office appears to have been in discussion with the company over the advice it was drawing up for the public in relation to targeted advertising, though it has denied that it has provided “any advice to Phorm directly relating to possible criminal liability for the operation of their advertising platform in the UK”.

The emails, which were obtained by a member of the public following a freedom of information request, show Phorm repeatedly asking the department if it “has no objection to the marketing and operation of the Phorm product in the UK”.

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Home Affairs, Baroness Sue Miller, said:

“My jaw dropped when I saw the Freedom of Information exchanges. The fact the Home Office asks the very company they are worried is actually falling outside the laws whether the draft interpretation of the law is correct is completely bizarre.”

Meanwhile, the company has launched a website – – which it says aims to stop the misinformation surrounding the technology.

Phorm (via BBC)

Wikipedia also opts out of Phorm


Following in the footsteps of Amazon, the Wikimedia Foundation has announced that it too will be blocking user-profiling software Phorm from scanning its site.

Interestingly, the blog post announcing the move mentioned that Wikimedia had an internal discussion about whether blocking the tech would mean legitimizing it. Many websites are ignoring Phorm entirely, wanting to have nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Wikimedia’s opt-out will mean that nothing hosted on Wikipedia, Wikiquote, Wikimedia, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikisource or Wiktionary will be able to be tracked by the spyware. As those sites tend to rank very highly in search engines, it’s a big blow to Phorm. It also begins a rolling ball that could see all major websites blocking the service.

(via Wikimedia Tech Blog)

Amazon blocks Phorm from scanning its website


Controversial ad-targeting system Phorm will be blocked from scanning Amazon’s website, according to a statement released by the company this afternoon. It’s not alone – LiveJournal, mySociety and Netmums will also be off-limits.

The system, which works by scanning for keywords on pages visited by a user and using that to send more relevant adverts, has been under fire this week, after the European Union declared that it would be bringing legal action against the UK for its data protection laws not preventing such a system.

The Open Rights Group, which works to protect digital rights and freedoms, has written to the privacy officers of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Bebo, Yahoo, Amazon and eBay, asking them to block Phorm. So far, Amazon is the only company in that list to respond, but if the others start following suit then Phorm could be in even greater trouble.

(via BBC)

BT launching new Phorm trials – users can join in (or opt out in HORROR) tomorrow


BT has announced some official-this-time new trials of Phorm’s controversial Webwise monitoring software – starting from tomorrow.

A select few BT users will be invited to join the latest and above-board trial of the ad-serving, browsing-monitoring software, with the pleasing result of seeing better targeted ads for Viagra as they mess about online…

Government says Phorm is phine – the spying ad software can be rolled out in the UK


The UK government has said the incredibly controversial Phorm software can be rolled out in the UK – but users must be told first and allowed to opt-out if they wish.

The Phorm system, which anonymously tracks your internet usage so it can offer you targeted advertising, was secretly tested on a small group of BT users without their knowledge, creating uproar among the sort of people who like to create uproars about privacy issues. The EU then got involved, asking for clarification about the hows and whys of Phorm, thinking that it might be a BAD THING.

So, the UK government investigated and has decided it’s OK and that Phorm is fine. Here’s what it told the EU investigators about its Phorm phindings and how users will be put in charge of turning it on and off…

All-knowing ISPs may start advertising to you based on how you surf

web_image.gifIt would be naïve to think that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) doesn’t hold an incredible amount of information about you. Unless you’re incredibly stealthy / geeky, they have access to every web site you view, every email message you send, every instant messaging conversation you hold… well I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now, a formula: ISP with a lot of personal information about you + ISP wanting to make more money = showing you targeted advertising while you use the Internet.

In reality, some ISPs have probably already been sharing bits of your data with other companies, but now a company called Phorm wants to insert relevant ads as you surf.