Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Businesses Government News

Phorm "Edited and Approved" UK Government Advice 126

Posted by kdawson
from the odd-bedfellow dept.
Barence was one of several readers to send in word that the UK Home Office checked whether its interpretation of the law suited Phorm, before issuing advice on the legality of the controversial advertising service. The Home Office and Phorm entered a dialogue about the company's services back in August 2007, at Phorm's request. In an email sent to Phorm in January 2008, a Home Office official writes: 'I should be grateful if you would review the attached document, and let me know what you think.' After Phorm made deletions and amendments to the document, the Home Office sent another email to the company stating: 'If we agree this, and this becomes our position do you think your clients and their prospective partners will be comforted.' From the BBC: "Baroness Sue Miller, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on Home Affairs, told BBC News: 'My jaw dropped when I saw the Freedom of Information exchanges. ... Anything the Home Office now says about Phorm is completely tainted.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Phorm "Edited and Approved" UK Government Advice

Comments Filter:
  • Terrible summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

    What is Phorm?
    What is "Home Office"?
    What is the relationship between the two?

    If the summary were a physical object, I'd rate it about a 3 out of 7132.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

    • Re:Terrible summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:28PM (#27749487)

      What is Phorm?

      FTA: "Phorm serves up adverts related to a user's web browsing history that it monitors by taking a copy of the places they go and search terms they look for."

      What is "Home Office"?

      From Wikipedia: "The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security and order."

      What is the relationship between the two?

      That's the thing, they shouldn't have any sort of relationship.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rts008 (812749)

        While I admire your helpfull attitude, and well crafted post, I regret to inform you: 'whoosh'.

        *note the distinct lack of all caps, and no exclamation marks*

        He has commented on Phorm articles before. He knows what Phorm is, but I think he was just using some form of sarcasm or something to point out bad form in the summary.

        Again, no sarcasm, derision, or other negative agendas were implied, nor designed against you here.
        I just 'know' this character and his sometimes 'dry wit' from past comments. :-)

        BTW, wel

      • by AGMW (594303)
        That's the thing, they shouldn't have any sort of relationship.

        I thought I'd seen and heard it all and would not, could not be shocked by ANYTHING our morally bankrupt Government gets up to anymore ... and they manage to lower the bar again!

        You have to admire them really, in the same way you admire a really clever criminal who pulls off some job against all the odds :-
        Some friends of mine were in South America and were out for a nice walk when one of them got hit by an enormous bird-strike. Luckily som

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by pjt33 (739471)

      According to TFS (no need to RTFA) Phorm is a "controversial advertising service" and a "company".

      The Home Office is the office responsible for home affairs - I'm going to hazard a guess that it's the equivalent of the US Department of State, but I'm not sure because I've never seen a summary which mentioned the DoS explain what it is.

      The relationship between them is complex, which is the whole point of the story. If you really care about details, RTFA.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Obfuscant (592200)
        The Home Office is the office responsible for home affairs - I'm going to hazard a guess that it's the equivalent of the US Department of State,...

        You picked the one Department that is least like the Home Office. The Dept. of State deals with issues external to the US. Interior, Homeland Security, Commerce, are the internal departments that are probably most like Home Office.

      • by mikael (484)

        The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, counter-terrorism and the police.

        Odd how they are taking responsibility for approving the use of Phorm for "advertising purposes".

        • by mikael (484)

          The Home Office [direct.gov.uk]

          The Home Office is the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, counter-terrorism and the police.

    • by blackest_k (761565) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:06PM (#27749973) Homepage Journal

      where do we start the easy one home office basically in charge of domestic matters, similar to the foreign office for non domestic matters.

      Phorm...
      absolutely no point me rewriting the wikipedia article so heres the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phorm [wikipedia.org].

      They were a spywear company now there an advertising company that spies on an Isps customers and scrapes peoples web sites in order to sell advertising to your competitors.

      As a website owner what is particularly objectionable is the scraping of your sites to sell ad space to other companies. Their bot will spider your page and ignore robots.txt unless they say you have specifically blocked google and yahoo. The critical difference between what google and yahoo does and phorm does is google and yahoo spider your site to bring your pages to the attention of people looking for what you offer. Phorm spiders your site in order to bring people to other sites which offer similar things to what you offer. Poaching your customer base in this way with your own marketing materials is well out of order.

      which is perhaps one good reason why this matters if your outside of the UK but with a UK customer base.

      • They were a spywear company

        So they made trench coats and top hats - available in black or white? Cool [spyvsspyhq.com].

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        They were a spywear company now there an advertising company that spies on an Isps customers and scrapes peoples web sites in order to sell advertising to your competitors.

        I.E. they just got better at being a spyware company.

        Same end result, regardless of the method.

  • Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:24PM (#27749437) Journal
    That, kids, is what regulatory capture looks like. More specifically, that is what public sector big brother and private sector big brother sharing a big sloppy kiss looks like. Pathetic.
    • Re:Impressive... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:53PM (#27749765) Homepage

      Even more accurately, this is what it looks like when a Director of a private sector company also works in the public sector. For the very ministry responsible for regulating the company he sits on the board of.

      It's not so much the fox guarding the hen-house as it is the fox being awarded an exclusive construction contract for every hen-house in the country.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        It's not so much the fox guarding the hen-house as it is the fox being awarded an exclusive construction contract for every hen-house in the country.

        That is one of the better analogies I've seen here. Very well done!
        Who cares 'who' is guarding the hen-house when you design/control/manage all of the 'secret/hidden passage ways'.

        Indeed.

    • by Trigun (685027)

      Now big sister and big sister sharing a big sloppy kiss, HAWT!

    • I can't believe that you'd try and imply that the two entities are incestual and "gay"!

      Actually, no wait, that sounds about right...
    • My guess is that Phorm promised the UK government that they would provide the Internet tracking data that the government wants. They will be able to track users in a way not possible by ISPs since Phorm's cookies will allow them to identify individual PCs behind NAT routers.
  • Phorm? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:24PM (#27749443)

    Am I the only one who has no idea who or what Phorm is?

    For everyone else like me, a quick google search tells me that it is a company that makes advertising software that borders on spyware. I think the UK's argument that Phorm is okay since it can be used in a legal is entertaining. Sounds like the exact opposite argument that the same politicians probably used to shutdown P2P services.

    Ahhh, corruption. Where would democracy be without it?

    • by legirons (809082)

      Am I the only one who has no idea who or what Phorm is?

      For everyone else like me, a quick google search tells me that it is a company that makes advertising software that borders on spyware.

      They became famous for illegally wiretapping the internet connections of BT broadband customers and using the information thus gleaned to decide which adverts to serve to whom.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rts008 (812749)

      Well, not the only one. You may be in the minority, though.

      It has appeared as article material [slashdot.org] here on /. before. [slashdot.org]

      I do notice that I'm developing a tendency to think 'where have you been?' lately when I see a question like yours.
      I try not to actually voice that thought, as I realise that I have been off work recovering from surgery for a while(way too long!), and forget I spend far too much time here. :-)

      Please accept my apologies if I started off as being harsh.

    • by mikael (484)

      Phorm wants to have a nice big data pipe between the gateway of every ISP and the rest of the Internet. Having access to this stream of data will allow Phorm to identify what every web page user is reading, commenting on, and downloading. From all of this information, Phorm claims that will be able to build up a profile of what each Internet user may be currently interested in buying. From this profile, Phorm will then be able to add customized adverts in the banner space of each webpage that the user views

  • Crap! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DinDaddy (1168147) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:26PM (#27749465)

    How are we sopposed to threaten to move to another country if they all suck?

    Where's our cheap space travel? Oh, and somewhere to travel to.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      Canada: Pssst .... up here.

      To quote the Arrogant worms: "We won't say that we're better ... it's just that we're less worse"

      • Yeah, I'm going to start looking up there in a month.
        If my vote doesn't count here, Might as well move up North where they at least have a semblance of national healthcare. If they would ban CNN and Fox up there, I may not even bother packing or finding a job, I'll just go.
  • Yep (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:27PM (#27749479) Homepage
    I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the reply I gave some moments ago.*

    Specifically, this one [slashdot.org]. A quick quote from the relevant bit:

    " ... some time later I had a reply from the Cabinet Minister under whose remit this fell....And that reply was awful. Essentially it was Phorm's press release. Not even regurgitated - the documents were straight from Phorm."

    Was clear that the ministerial office and Phorm were either working rather more closely than they let on, or that the Minister in question had no clue and simply took everything on trust from Phorm.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    *A UK Parliamentary phrase, for those that don't recognise it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I regretfully inform you that all communication with Honorable gentlemen should consist soley of cheers OR jeers , any dialogue that a child aged 10 isn't capable off understanding would require the Honorable [google.co.uk] gentleman to actually engage his brain more than 30% of the time and this is an unneeded stress and will soon be outlawed all together.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        I think 'mcalli' was applying the honorific 'Honourable' as sarcasm/dry wit, not applying it to the Cabinet Minister in question.
        That would have been obvious to you if you would have clicked on the linked (prior-two weeks ago) comment, and actually read it. Or should I have spelt that 'red' for u? After all, we're jus' droppin' uneeded letters now, ain't we?(honor vs. honour)

        Get over the spelling, they invented the language, and he/she used the correct spelling, just as I was also taught! (bred, born, and

        • by Ashriel (1457949)

          Get over the spelling, they invented the language

          Er, no one 'invented' English; it has always been a mash-up of multiple languages. While it may have originated in England as a modified Germanic tongue, it has moved so far from its origins that no one group of people could be said to have created it.

          Just because we 'fold, spindle, and mutilate' different languages/words and incorporate them into our language here in the USA

          The U.S. is not the sole practitioner of this - this has happened to the language since its inception, which is why we all don't speak and write in Old English anymore.

          Realistically, I have to take the position that both spellings are technically correct.

          • by rts008 (812749)

            I humbly stand corrected, and reminded of the roots!

            My main point and rant/soapbox-mounting unavoidably had me focused on the spelling issue, and the underhanded way the poster I was replying to, tried to denigrate that in typical USA hick/redneck fashion that can easily spark me to 'action'.

            It remains a 'chip on my shoulder' since I was 6 years old(1963), and caught flack in school over the spelling of certain words. The teacher would present one spelling, which was different from my British 'Blue Blooded'

      • If you're going to lay claim to the language then you should really start by calling it something other than 'English'.

        I regretfully inform you that all communication with Honorable gentlemen should consist soley of cheers OR jeers

        Sounds like parliamentary procedure to me. I don't know if you can watch Prime Minister's Questions from outside the UK, but if you can, I heartily recommend it both as an educational exercise and a right laugh.

        Oh hang on, you're American... can you work out what I mean by 'Prim

    • And I refer phorm to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.

  • ... goosestepping towards fascism.

  • by auric_dude (610172) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:34PM (#27749559)
    One of the good guys. The voting record http://www.theyworkforyou.com/peer/baroness_miller_of_chilthorne_domer [theyworkforyou.com] Baroness Miller http://suemiller.org.uk/ [suemiller.org.uk]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Daimanta (1140543)

      "Has used three-word alliterative phrases (e.g. "she sells seashells") 612 times in debates -- well above average amongst Lords."

      Shocking!

    • I emailed her a few days ago regarding a similar issue, she responded within 3 hours. Her voting record is good and I'm really impressed, first response I've got out of the House of Lords
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Home Office's response can be viewed here [whatdotheyknow.com].
  • Chilling (Score:2, Funny)

    by Colonel Korn (1258968)

    This makes me feel sick. If only more Sue Millers were elected...

    • Re:Chilling (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:07PM (#27749997)

      The irony of it is that as she's a peer in the house of Lords, she's one of the ones that isn't actually elected to her position ;)

      Perhaps this whole democracy thing is actually the problem ;)

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute chat with the average voter" - Churchill

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Don't go betting the farm on monarchy just because you happened to get lucky and find a good egg. There have been more than enough bad eggs to make that path dubious.

        At least a Republic takes time to spiral out of control, dying brilliantly, rather than the "now it's good, now it's bad" up and down in perpetuity of a monarchy.

        • by Xest (935314)

          I was thinking something more along the lines of dictatorship with Steven Hawking or Tim Berners-Lee in charge ;)

  • RIAA/MPAA "Edited and Approved" US Government Advice

    etc.
    • by Yer Mum (570034)

      Nearly.

      It's more like Front Porch/NebuAd/PerfTech "Edited and Approved" US Government Advice.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:25PM (#27750259) Homepage

    If you want an ad-driven Internet, this is the sort of arrangement you are going to get.

    The idea that a company shouldn't sell advertising that is specifically designed to raid one web sitefor the benefit of another is silly. Advertisers are going to do whatever they can to sell ads. We've gone way beyond selling banner ad space. Now you get advertising that is designed for specific customers at specific times.

    I'd guess the next big thing will be something like ISP-inserted ads so if you type www.tigerdirect.com it pops up an ad for Newegg. Or, when you do do a search on a CNN site that you get a popup for an item at Sears related to whatever you were searching for on CNN. Advertising that is "relevent" but has nothing what so ever to do with the web site you were on - just related to what you were typing or clicking on.

    How about a system that takes whatever you were doing on the web and has a telemarketer call you about a related product immediately?

    We've just begun down the road of an ad-supported society. One where everything seems to be free, except somehow people are paying for all the advertising. Maybe individual people will be able to rent out product referrals, so you get paid every time you say "Coke". Can you imagine a conversation between two people, one getting paid to say "Coke" and the other getting paid to say "Pepsi"? How about displaying your sponsorship with logoware? You know, a hat with a Nike logo and a shirt with a Reebok logo?

    Fantasy? I doubt it. The more people think they want stuff for free and keep on showing their desire for free stuff to marketers, the more "free", ad-supported stuff there will be. And the bigger Google grows the more it convinces people that they too can make money by selling ad space.

    • How about displaying your sponsorship with logoware? You know, a hat with a Nike logo and a shirt with a Reebok logo?

      I think we're already there. Maybe not so much from "fashionable" brands, but as a college student I find myself in position of a lot of freebies - shirts, bags, etc. Even though I am not being paid to wear them, I still receive compensation, namely the item itself. I have shirts for apartment complexes I don't live at, but who cares? I still wear them when I go to the store.

    • The day I get paid to wear Gucci, Polo or other brands where 50% of the price comes from the logo on the shirt is the day I'll actually wear it. In the meantime, I feel a little dirty every time I parade around in branded clothes.

    • by Wowsers (1151731) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:08PM (#27751129) Journal

      The "Home Office", is interested in Phorm because the current mentally retarded government can see the potential of the system. Today it's re-writing web pages replacing adverts for their own on-the-fly, tomorrow it's re-writing whole web pages by government edict to write the gospel according to the government.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Yes, contact us at 'honesty@Ministry_of_Truth.guv.uk' for more info. After all, would we lie to you?
        *disclaimer-applies to us 'across the pond' here also*

    • Charter.net actually was planning the ISP level ads.. however, they backed down after a shit-storm of controversy.

    • by rts008 (812749)

      How about a system that takes whatever you were doing on the web and has a telemarketer call you about a related product immediately?

      FSCK YOU and the white mule you rode in on.

      The 'Minority Report' type adverts would most assuredly cause me to go over the edge and engage in 'Gone Plaid/Past Ludicrous' overloaded anarchy against 'The Man'. Expect an 'Earth-shattering Kaboom!' when this is implemented.
      It will be best for the Galaxy as a whole, for Earth's marketing to go this way. I am willing to sacrifice, as long as I get a lot of your type. ;-)

  • Just wow...
  • Get the "Phacts"! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:31PM (#27750367)

    Phorm should already be a slashdot meme, they're a psychopathic pastiche of "Get the Facts" era Microsoft and SCO.

    http://www.stopphoulplay.com/ [stopphoulplay.com]

    The CEO is a spyware peddler who doth protest too much about "protecting privacy". Well beyond parody, this is A-grade comedy for geeks.

    • by Burkin (1534829)
      I love how any who protests their spyware/adware is a privacy "pirate". What the fuck does that even mean?
      • What the fuck does that even mean?

        ARRGHH! You scurvy dog!
        It means you get to walk the fsck'ing plank after yer keel-hauled, drawn-n-quartered***, and make a sacrifice of 72 virgin goatse's to the Corporate OverLords!
        *parrot sounds off:*
        "Polly wants a cracker! [thepiratebay.org]

        ***Yes, that's stretching it a bit...

  • welcome our new phormless overlords.
  • Wake up UK morons. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TractorBarry (788340) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:37PM (#27750497) Homepage

    Another day, another example of the venal, self serving, political class currently running the UK into the ground. I just wish people in the UK would wake up, get off their arses and go out and vote for anything other than the red themed (the one with the rose logo) or blue themed (the one with the torch logo) Conservative parties.

    Honestly just go and vote for absolutely anybody else. Vote Liberal democrats, vote Monster Raving Loony, vote Green, vote for the Miss UK party, just make sure you vote and make sure it's not for either the red or blue parties. if necessary tactially vote to make sure the bastards are beaten. I'd love to see the day when we had a government comprised of an eclectic mix of all sorts of individuals.

    The political class in this country treat its citizens with utter contempt and do not deserve a job of any sort, let alone one that allows them to ruin the lives of everyone else. If they're not putting their hand in our back pockets to pay for yet more luxury furnishings to their second homes (paid for by us) they're desperately trying to find more ways to micro manage and interfere with every last vestige of our personal lives.

    I think Mr. Coleman (Killing Joke) puts it best in Implant with the line "You don't want to protect, you just want to fucking control".

    Oh never mind Eastenders is on in a minute, followed by Match of the day, and it's all too difficult to think about. I suppose people do get the governments they deserve after all...

  • <company_name> writes <country_name> government policy.......this is nothing new, specially in the "civilized world". Surely it'd be more efficient in screwing people over if the role of "ministers" was downsized, as all they do is siphon off bribes from the bottom line.

    Yet another example of why the system is broken and needs replacing with a citizen friendly democratic replacement.
  • (really - look at StopPhoulPlay.com [stopphoulplay.com]. It's really special.)

    Beleaguered Internet advertising phirm Phorm is hitting back at critics with StopPhoulPlay.com [stopphoulplay.com], in an attempt to lure Internet activists into herniating from laughter.

    "It is clear that the campaign against Phorm [today.com] originates in the sinister manipulations of Alex Hanff and Marcus Williamson," said Kent Ertegun, CEO of Phorm, "who have used mind control lasers and the killer robot armies of the Open Rights Group and FIPR to deceive millions of Britons into a Communistic fervor of hatred against the engines of the free market and customer demand, the salesmen and marketers, the true creators and enablers of objective value."

    The website, designed in Microsoft Word, uses the public relations format so successfully put into play by the ReligiousFreedomWatch.org [religiousf...mwatch.org] site of the Church of Scientology, a community institution of flawless repute. StopPhoulPlay.org reveals how:

    * At the age of five, Hanff REFUSED to share his crayons with the little girl next to him, saying she was "poopy" and would only draw a picture to be used against him.
    * At age twelve, Williamson accepted MONEY from his mother to buy sweets, but not to tell schoolmates in case they wanted some.
    * Hanff and Williamson may have attempted to access POTENTIALLY ILLEGAL images blocked by the Internet Watch Foundation.
    * Hanff and Williamson have used WIKIPEDIA at least once in their lives.
    * Hanff and Williamson INVADED POLAND in 1939.

    "Given the persistence with which they propagate incorrect information, we cannot rule out the possibility that a competitor is involved," he said. "The competitor goes under the name 'reality.' Needless to say, we have no tolerance for an entity of such limited possibilities.

    "These people are privacy pirates -- people who steal privacy online, off the coast of Somalia. With Internet guns! And drugs! And child pornography!"

    Mr Hanff and Mr Williamson said they were unsure whether to sue Phorm into atomic dust for gross defamation or to just let them continue with their infallible public relations work. Phorm shares have dropped from 405p to being declared a serious infection risk by the World Health Organization.

    • by rts008 (812749)

      "Given the persistence with which they propagate incorrect information, we cannot rule out the possibility that a competitor is involved," he said. "The competitor goes under the name 'reality.' Needless to say, we have no tolerance for an entity of such limited possibilities.

      "These people are privacy pirates -- people who steal privacy online, off the coast of Somalia. With Internet guns! And drugs! And child pornography!"

      Sadly we will be looking into how to implement this in Corporate America[formerly kn

    • I am teh evil.
  • As is the case with so many things like this that appear to be governments colluding with the private sector to further commercial vested interest etc. etc., it is in fact just a result of the kind of people that work in the public sector in Britain.

    Basically, most civil servants are marshmallow-soft, compliant yes-men who spend most of their time finding the line of least resistance for various reasons. Sometimes it's over work, sometimes it's lack of knowledge or confidence in the issues they are being as

nohup rm -fr /&

Working...