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BT Silences Customers Over Phorm 196

Posted by Soulskill
from the lalala-i-can't-hear-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Register reports that BT, the UK's dominant telecom and internet service provider, has 'banned all future discussion of Phorm and its "WebWise" targeted advertising product on its customer forums, and deleted all past threads about the controversy dating back to February.' Phorm is a controversial opt-out system for delivering targeted advertising that intercepts traffic passing through an ISP in order to profile subscribers via an assigned unique ID based on their online activities. Subscribers can opt-out at the Webwise website but are opted-in again if the Phorm cookie is cleared. Firefox users can install Melvin Sage's Firephorm add-on to manage their interaction with Phorm and Webwise."
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BT Silences Customers Over Phorm

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  • Same here ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jahf (21968) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:18AM (#25855551) Journal

    My ISP recently turned on a similar system. I'm quite unhappy about it but I really don't have a realistic alternate ISP (boonies, telco, blah blah blah). It really does suck when things like this happen. I don't do anything illegal, but I still like my (relative) privacy and the ISP is the easiest place to attach my real identity to my data paths.

    So, for now, I'm pondering going back to a fulltime SSH VPN to my web host for everything except the few apps I use that need low latency.

  • by cjfs (1253208) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:26AM (#25855607) Homepage Journal

    I remember Google was working on something on the app layer that would guard against this type of connection hijacking but without the setup and teardown overhead of full blown SSL.

    Sounds like you're thinking of the obfuscated tcp [slashdot.org] story. Wasn't so much a Google project as someone who happened to work at Google iirc.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @12:59AM (#25855729)

    This seems to be the tactic of the day. Apple does the same thing in their forums, delete any posts mentioning things they don't want mentioned on the grounds that it is a user to user technical support forum.

    Yet you can post gushing praise of Apple without asking for help or offering to help and the moderators leave those fanboy posts alone.

    This is a good reason to start an independent forum on any one of a number of forum hosting sites, preferably out of the reach of BT.

  • Re:Same here ... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2008 @01:25AM (#25855819)

    My ISP recently turned on a similar system.

    Care to share the name of your ISP so that we can taunt them?

  • by IAmAI (961807) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @02:30AM (#25856031)
    I thought it had been decided that Phorm was only legal in the UK if it was an opt-in service, rather than an opt-out service?
  • Glad I Left (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KingJ (992358) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @04:51AM (#25856431) Homepage
    I left BT a few months ago after they continued with the trial, despite massive outcry from customers and other internet users. Thankfully, here in the UK it's easy to switch ADSL providers, just request a MAC transfer code and give it to your ISP. I moved to ADSL24, a reseller of Entanet who are very open about their network, while other ISPs like to hide it. I have been extremely satisfied with my new provider, and I am going to make sure that I never give any money to BT again. Bad idea to annoy those younger customers, they've still got quite a lot to spend into the future.
  • Re:cookie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @04:57AM (#25856465) Journal

    If it went to court, any customer in the UK would be able to get away with terminating their contract on these grounds. I would recommend a formal notification of terminating the contract, the clear reasons why and the promise that this would be resolved via legal action if they chose to pursue you. I would also promise legal action if they in anyway impeded my freedom to move to another ISP.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @05:14AM (#25856507) Homepage

    What would happen if the webwise.net domain (which shares an IP with phorm.com) was to accidentally get DDOSed?

    Going by the Phorm diagram on wikipedia, it would seem that webwise.net is a central point of failure for the system.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @08:01AM (#25857021) Journal

    There is absolutely no way in which this isn't copyright infringement. Any web page is copyrighted. This comment is copyrighted and owned by me. The Slashdot terms of use say that they get a nonexclusive distribution right to them. No one else has the right to reproduce them or modify them. The complete page is also copyrighted and owned jointly by all of the posters and by Slashdot.

    A carrier has an implicit license to distribute exact copies to their customers and, if the correct headers are set, to cache a copy. Inserting adverts, however, is creating and distributing a derived work from the copyrighted material. Since they profit from the adverts, it counts as commercial infringement, which typically has much larger financial penalties.

    The maximum fine for online copyright infringement in the UK is now £5,000 per offence. Every single page that is modified counts as an instance of infringement. The total fines would come to more than the market capitalisation of BT at the moment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2008 @08:51AM (#25857259)

    If this was any other company (Time Warner, AOL, etc), Bruce Schneier would be all over the privacy and censorship issues here. But he's the CTO of British Telecom, and when the gravy train is on the line, the privacy-vocal cipherpunk is nowhere to be found.

  • by maxume (22995) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @09:34AM (#25857461)

    There is absolutely no way in which this isn't copyright infringement. Any web page is copyrighted. This comment is copyrighted and owned by me. The Slashdot terms of use say that they get a nonexclusive distribution right to them. No one else has the right to reproduce them or modify them. The complete page is also copyrighted and owned jointly by all of the posters and by Slashdot.

    A carrier has an implicit license to distribute exact copies to their customers and, if the correct headers are set, to cache a copy. Inserting adverts, however, is creating and distributing a derived work from the copyrighted material. Since they profit from the adverts, it counts as commercial infringement, which typically has much larger financial penalties.

    The maximum fine for online copyright infringement in the UK is now £5,000 per offence. Every single page that is modified counts as an instance of infringement. The total fines would come to more than the market capitalisation of BT at the moment.

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