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Rights Groups Speak Out Against Phorm, UK Comm. Database 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the noted-and-logged-at-our-secure-servers dept.
MJackson writes "The Open Rights Group (ORG) has issued a public letter to the Chief Privacy Officers (or the nearest equivalent) for seven of the world's largest website giants (including Microsoft and Google), asking them to boycott Phorm. The controversial Phorm system works with broadband ISPs to monitor what websites you visit for use in targeted advertising campaigns. Meanwhile, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has issued a new report slamming the UK government's plans for a Communications Database. This would be designed to intercept and log every UK ISP user's e-mail headers, website accesses and telephone history. The report warns that the public are often, 'neither served nor protected by the increasingly complex and intrusive holdings of personal information invading every aspect of our lives.'"
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Rights Groups Speak Out Against Phorm, UK Comm. Database

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:13AM (#27311283) Journal
    If, for instance, your mommy says you are special; but nobody else does, your specialness isn't "controversial" in any useful sense, it's just a settled matter with a contrarian outlier. In this case, the only people who think Phorm is even remotely a good idea are A)Phorm and B)ISPs who Phorm has promised gobs of money. That isn't "controversy", it is a handful of money-grubbing special interests attempting to screw everybody else. To dignify Phorm as "controversial" is far more than it deserves.
    • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:27AM (#27311463)

      It's more than that. It is controversial, I'm afraid.

      There's the whole is it/is it not legal debate, the controversy over the police investigations, the government capitulation and potential EU investigation of the whole thing.

      There's also the fact the Joe public has never heard of Phorm and wouldn't particularly care or work out the consequences if he did. So it's basically an argument between monied interests, the British police and government on one side and geeks. privacy advocates and the EU on the other.

      I'd call that a bit of a controversy.

      • controversy n:

        • 1. A dispute, especially a public one, between sides holding opposing views. See synonyms at argument.
        • 2. The act or practice of engaging in such disputes: writers skilled at controversy.

        Regarding the OP's main point. Is there in fact controversy over Phorm? Is there a dispute between two sides holding opposite views. I would argue with the OP and say there is not.

        Not certainly it looks like there is a dispute. But realistically, it's all just mummery or controversy theater if you will. T

        • by Nursie (632944)

          There certainly is controversy over the handling of Phorm, if not on its intent and the acceptability of its purpose.

          When Phorm was trialled without consent the police investigated both them and the ISP and dropped the case (or were asked to by government). The EU got involved and is still trying to get answers out of the UK government about why this happened, why there were no trials and why it's allowed to continue...

          Bah, Maybe not controversial amongst the public any further than "they're watching us all

        • by theCoder (23772)

          The media is to blame for this.

          Well, they at least share part of the blame. The scumbags at Phorm get some of it, too.

          If rules limiting the amount of sport, gossip and leisure stories were enforced, we would have better watchdogs.

          Doubtful. And frankly, disgusting. There are plenty of news sources out there that don't have a lot of those stories (NPR, for example). But they don't have high ratings. Why? Because, sadly, people want sports, gossip, leisure stories, and don't care about their freedoms.

          I'm

          • by robkill (259732)

            There are plenty of news sources out there that don't have a lot of those stories (NPR, for example).

            Actually NPR is at a record high rating. More people listen to NPR's Morning Edition than watch Good Morning America or the Today Show. Of course that's probably because the number of people who are in their car driving to work form a huge base for NPR that (hopefully) aren't able to watch TV. Here's a link to the Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com]

    • by neokushan (932374)

      Wow, that's quite a controversial statement you've made there!

    • by Bob-taro (996889)

      I would say that your concerns about the use of the word "controversial" are controversial, but I don't think enough people share your view to justify using that term. :P

    • by hobbit (5915)

      Given that information wants to be free, and that DRM doesn't really work, what do you think the long-term prospects are for monetizing content on the web?

      Advertising will increasingly be an important part of keeping content being generated. Advertising based on user profiling will be more economical and less intrusive. Google understands this, but they don't require you to opt out of deep packet inspection to avoid it. That's where the controversy lies with Phorm -- are they breaking the law (they say not,

  • Change your ISP (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ragein (901507) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:20AM (#27311363)
    If you don't like what your ISP is planning to do then change it. Personally I will be trying this:- http://superawesomebroadband.com/ [superaweso...adband.com] Does anyone have any experiance with them?
    • by u38cg (607297)
      That is possibly the best website ever. Pricey, but if it really is unlimited...maybe. Whenever this comes up, I always shout out my own ISP, Net Central, who aren't IWF shills and have great tech support, and don't bother me, ever. £23.49 for a maxed out connection, no fixed limits but they do reserve the right to dial you back if you're hurting other people.
    • by Timmmm (636430)

      I recommend Be Unlimited: www.bethere.co.uk

      Good price, unlimited data quota, 24 Mb/s, free static IP, and they don't do anything to your traffic as far as I can tell. Oh and it's only a 3 month contract.

      • by coder111 (912060)
        Um, They will censor wikipedia and are IWF shills. I'm on Be now, but I will switch away from them when I get a chance. Search for previous articles on Slashdot.

        I have heard AAISP is quite good, but they are more expensive and have traffic caps.

        --Coder
    • Entanet are also a good alternative, they've had a couple of problems rescently due to BT buggering up the IPStream switchover, but they've practically all cleared up.

      You can't buy directly from Entanet but there are plenty of resellers, I use http://adsl24.co.uk/ [adsl24.co.uk] personally.

      • by arkhan_jg (618674)

        I've just migrated off adsl24 because after 3 months solid of my offpeak speeds dropping to 1-2Mb at the best of times, and sub 0.5Mb at the worst. On an 8Mb line, and no promise that it'd improve - the service is now designed for peak business hours, and offpeak is you get what you're given.

        Since I only actually use my home connection when I'm not at work, that's not much help.

        If you were on a low-load node, I'm sure your service is fine now. If you're on a node like Edinburgh (99% load right now), Manches

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:22AM (#27311395) Journal

    The UK and France are slowly but surely turning into the totalitarian states that, prior to 1990, they despised. You can't carry a defensive weapon to protect yourself from a criminal attack. You can't walk down the street without a camera following you. You can't visit websites with nudity or other "harmful" material (censorship of the right to expression). You don't have a right to a trial by your peers (three strikes and you lose ISP access). Your biometric data is being recorded and tracked by the government, and soon I wouldn't be surprised if they make diets mandatory for people with BMI>25 (as has happened in Japan), or else get fined.

    Yay. Freedom won. (cough). Or maybe not.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:31AM (#27311493) Journal

      Freedom won.

      Well, one version of freedom won. The freedom that says you need the Government to "protect" you from every conceivable source of harm, ranging from fatty foods to cigarettes to automobile accidents to firearms. The sheep can't possibly be trusted to assume responsibility for their own actions/choices so we need to curtail those choices for the public good.

      When will people realize that real freedom is the freedom to do whatever the hell you want, provided that it isn't harming your neighbor?

      • by Nursie (632944)

        "When will people realize that real freedom is the freedom to do whatever the hell you want, provided that it isn't harming your neighbor?"

        Never.

        And even if they did, they'd keep expanding the definition of harm. I've heard people claiming harm for all sorts of things, like having openly gay individuals living next door harms their property prices, or somehow "gayifies" their children and thus harms them.

        People will never give up on their drive to interfere with and disapprove of other people's lives. More'

        • It is *physical* harm not abstract harm. That's why the KKK is allowed to go-around calling people the N-word and burning crosses. Although you might find this offensive, they have the right to say or do whatever they wish, so long as they don't cause physical harm to your body, your land, or your property.

          "No man has a right to attack another. And that is all the government should restrain him." - Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic party.

          • by Nursie (632944)

            But that's the point, you'd never get anyone to agree to that, and then over time they'd stretch the definitions to the point of the ridiculous.

            Isn't my mind part of my body? It distresses me and makes me ill to know what's gong on next door....

            I don't subscribe to these bullshit arguments myself, but they do crop up. There are huge proportions of the population of the western world that would be horrified at the idea of just letting people do whatever they want. Like the drug thing - many folks consider dr

            • >>>It distresses me and makes me ill to know what's gong on next door....

              Too bad. "Whether my neighbor worships one god, many gods, or no god matters not to me. It does not harm my body, my property, nor my rights therefore I will allow my neighbor the liberty to worship however he pleases." - Tomas Jefferson. The same reasoning applies to any other behavior your neighbor does, like gay sex, or swinger parties.

              >>>many folks consider drug use to be a moral failing

              Nobody has a right to i

      • by hobbit (5915)

        When will people realize that real freedom is the freedom to do whatever the hell you want, provided that it isn't harming your neighbor?

        Harm to your neighbour is sometimes difficult to pin down. You should read up about the "tragedy of the commons" sometime.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          You should read up about the "tragedy of the commons" sometime.

          So my smoking pot in the privacy of my own home leads to a tragedy of the commons? My being overweight leads to a tragedy of the commons? My ownership of a firearm leads to a tragedy of the commons?

          Harm to your neighbour is sometimes difficult to pin down

          IMHO, if you can't pin it down you have no right to tell me that I can't engage in the behavior you are seeking to regulate and/or prohibit.

          • by hobbit (5915)

            I don't disagree that you can come up with at least three examples of freedoms that do not lead tragedies of the commons.

            But what if consensus is hard to reach about certain other things, e.g. air pollution? Do you just engage in it because nobody can "pin it down" to the satisfaction of everybody?

            • by Shakrai (717556)

              I hope you haven't read anything I've said and concluded that I would have a problem regulating air pollution. My problem is when politicians try to regulate behavior based on some perceived harm to society. Seat belt laws come to mind. Marijuana prohibition comes to mind. If my behavior isn't harming anyone else then what business is it of the Government? My main complaint is with the nanny state and the war on vice.

              • by hobbit (5915)

                Everything manmade comes about as a result of behaviour. The distinction is not a useful one.

                If you fail to wear a seat belt in the back of a car, you might just kill the person sitting in front of you. I should imagine that a front seat occupant is more likely to kill someone in the front of the other vehicle in the case of a head-on collision.

                Where does your fist end and the other guy's face begin? It's a sliding scale. Marijuana might bring out psychotic tendencies in enough people to be considered a ris

                • by Shakrai (717556)

                  If you fail to wear a seat belt in the back of a car, you might just kill the person sitting in front of you

                  Give me a break. A) That's so hypothetical and tenuous that it hardly merits a response, B) The person in front of you could have made an informed decision not to remain in the car unless you put on your seat belt.

                  I should imagine that a front seat occupant is more likely to kill someone in the front of the other vehicle in the case of a head-on collision.

                  Do you have a single example of this ever happening or are you going on your "gut" feeling?

                  Marijuana might bring out psychotic tendencies in enough people to be considered a risk

                  Then those people shouldn't use it and should be held responsible for any actions they commit while under the influence. Some people get violent when they drink -- you gonna take my beer away from me bec

                  • by hobbit (5915)

                    Give me a break. A) That's so hypothetical and tenuous that it hardly merits a response

                    Citation needed.

                    B) The person in front of you could have made an informed decision not to remain in the car unless you put on your seat belt.

                    True.

                    Do you have a single example of this ever happening or are you going on your "gut" feeling?

                    Call it a gut feeling if you want: I call it an observation of the laws of physics. But no, I don't have any evidence for it.

                    Some people get violent when they drink -- you gonna take my beer away from me because of them?

                    Ah, you're in favour of everyone having equal access to nuclear weapons? Good luck with that.

                    • by Shakrai (717556)

                      Ah, you're in favour of everyone having equal access to nuclear weapons? Good luck with that.

                      Ironic that you accuse me of hyperbole and bust out with 'so everybody should have nuclear weapons' in response to a remark about drug prohibition. I suspect we are done here.

                    • by hobbit (5915)

                      Ironic that you accuse me of hyperbole

                      Poppycock. Show me where I did that.

                      and bust out with 'so everybody should have nuclear weapons' in response to a remark about drug prohibition

                      It's not in response to a remark about drug prohibition, it's in response to a remark about doing "whatever the hell you want, provided that it isn't harming your neighbor" (which includes owning nuclear weapons).

                      I suspect we are done here.

                      If you're done making false accusations and setting up straw men: indeed we are.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      You can't walk down the street without a camera following you.

      I'm quite skeptical about this being as generally true as you make it out to be.

      You can't visit websites with nudity or other "harmful" material (censorship of the right to expression).

      Visiting websites isn't actually exercising a right to expression. Barring such websites from being run might be considered such, yes. Expression is solely on the speaker's end, not the reader's.

      You don't have a right to a trial by your peers (three strikes and you lose ISP access).

      Like it or not, ISP access is not a right. They are not punishing you for a crime, so you haven't lost any right to trial. It may be underhanded, you may not like it, but it has nothing to do with a right to trial.

      and soon I wouldn't be surprised if they make diets mandatory for people with BMI>25 (as has happened in Japan), or else get fined.

      No good rights tirade i

    • Yay. Freedom won. (cough). Or maybe not.

      Not quite. The Soviet Union fell.

      The ongoing authoritarian creep, the increasing censorship, growing economic and social conservatism, the worsening impotence of our media, all can be traced back to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the second world. Without that counterweight, without that foil, the western world had not standard against which to measure the worth of its society. Since then, our freedoms have been proclaimed only in our own propaganda and not in

  • by krou (1027572) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:25AM (#27311433)
    Links to the Rowntree report: executive summary [jrrt.org.uk], and the full report [jrrt.org.uk]. (Both in PDF format). It's worth mentioning that their report doesn't particularly single out the communications database. They assessed 46 databases across all the major UK government departments. They found that at least one quarter "are almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law", and that these "should be scrapped or substantially redesigned", while over "half have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness and could fall foul of a legal challenge". Less than 15% were believed to be "effective, proportionate and necessary". They had some equally damning things to say about the cost of IT projects in the public sector, and the high failure rate of the projects (only 30% succeed).
  • I highly doubt that some of the largest website giants are going to provide active discourse to boycott all of this invasion of privacy of traffic logging and email snooping. Look at how these large internet conglomerates get their money: from ads specifically tracking where you click your mouse on their website.

    But anyway. Gee, look at the time! 1984 all ready.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The only real hope, from people like Google and their fellow analytics and ad mongers, is that they'll oppose Phorm because it represents a competitor to their existing line of business.

      Clearly, anybody who sells ads and click data is not a warm and fuzzy friend of privacy; but I suspect that most, if not all, such really don't want a third party, in collusion with ISPs, to gain a superior position.
  • by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:34AM (#27311545)

    Let me get back to you when my sides stop hurting from laughing.

  • Firefox plus any number of anti-advert plugins stop most adverts, so the system would be self-defeating to what is an ever larger percentage of people dumping browsers like Internet Explorer.

    Don't expect the UK's privacy head to do anything, he makes a lot of noises like over the adding of 1 million innocent people to the DNA database (which is the largest in the world and larger than all 26 other European countries combined), but has let the government carry on. Deliberately toothless, a good PR job is all

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:39AM (#27311599)

    I found this comment in TFA (I believe it's taken from the Roundtree Report) intriguing:

    "One of them (the National DNA Database) has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, and both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have promised to scrap many of the others (emphasis mine)."

    Is the an instance of the Tories saying simply "we're not Labour," or is this some new-found attachment to civil liberties by a party previously known for devotion to monarchy and deference to authority?

    The Conservatives have never been very fond of Brussels either, so I'm guessing it's not a new-found devotion to the concept of EU-wide human rights that trump the authority of the member national governments.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:48AM (#27312623) Journal
      This, shows up in my news feeds, on the same day that the Tories declare that they are considering repealing the Human Rights Act if they come to power...
      • by Stevecrox (962208)
        While repealing the human rights act sounds horrific, I can support it as long as its replaced with something better.

        The Human rights act has been used by criminals to sue people for injuries they incurred trying to rob them and is heavily abused by rejected asulym seekers to delay their removal, the whole school girl demanding to wearing speacial clothing in school and by much of the PC brigade to supress the majority. Having actually read it I think it would be a lot easier to tear the thing up and star
  • Whenever I see a story about internet and privacy, the same thought comes to mind.
    The idea is brought up regularly on slash. Are we at the point that we need a type of DNS/ssl system put in place?
    I mean, come on!, this IS slashdot people here??
    Meh..GET OFF MY LAWN!!

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