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Phorm Phorces Which? To Retract Critical Survey, Uses Defamation Threat

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imageThe retraction came in so quick, we hadn’t even seen the original press release. Under legal pressure, consumer mag Which? on Wednesday hastily called back a survey it issued indicating public opposition to on-ISP behavioural ad targeter Phorm. Which? sent the following statement…

“Urgent withdrawal of press release from Which? – Internet users say: don’t sell my surfing habits. Which? has received further information and representations from Phorm about the proposed Webwise service, and it has agreed to withdraw the above press release, issued under embargo on 24 February 2008, while we consider them. Some of the information in the press release and related article is said to be inaccurate and as a consequence may be defamatory. You are strongly urged not to write an article based on the press release or the related article ‘Online privacy matters’ in Which? magazine.”

As The Reg notes, Press Association, Channel 4 News, and Mail Online all had to remove or amend articles. Since the retraction, the exact nature of Which?‘s original release are sketchy but are thought to suggest opposition amongst internet users to their browsing habits being used in ad targeting. Until now, Phorm’s response to the barrage of suspicion it received last year has been a PR offensive; not so much a legal crackdown. Phorm general counsel David Pester left the company in December, replaced by Sharon O

15 Responses to “Phorm Phorces Which? To Retract Critical Survey, Uses Defamation Threat”

  1. warescouse

    I promised myself I would never respond to your rhetoric. Seems I lied to myself.

    It is one thing stating an unbiased opinion, but it I suspect there is possibly some personal (insider?) motivation for what you say.

    Myself, like many others who have witnessed your past so called 'trolling' on other forums,would possibly tend take you opinion with a pinch of salt because of this suspicion.

    In my opinion Phorm, specifically in regards to its invasion of privacy application 'Webwise', must be stopped. Most people, who are neutral at the beginning of the day I suspect would probably agree with me.

    Once true facts (inphormed) are known about what is at stake and the deeper privacy issues involved in Phorm's Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) behaviour analysis collection at ISP's , people normally seem to express disbelief and negative feelings of disgust about it to me.

  2. BT Customer

    @ Hammy
    So we meet again?
    I thought you might pop up here defending the indefensible.

    I see you are rolling out the "less of a threat to privacy than Google" argument again. I know that argument is on the official Phorm apologists' prompt sheet ever since Kent Ertugrul tried it out on us about a year ago, but it hasn't worked yet, and it won't work now because it is simply hopeless.

    Tell me this Hammy – which ISP forces its customers to use Google? Absolutely none.
    Unlike Phorm

    Tell me this Hammy – do Google have any DPI hardware unavoidably tied in to any ISP infrastructure?
    Of course they don't.
    Unlike Phorm.

    Tell me this Hammy – does all a surfers net traffic unavoidably go through Google?
    Absolutely not.
    Unlike Phorm.

    And you say that Phorm is less of a threat to privacy than Google?
    Pull the other one Hammy. You were doing better on the ADVFN forum – your arguments can't cut the mustard out in the real world.
    The very fact that Phorm/121Media is using lawyers to try and manipulate the content of the internet and what is said about Webwise, tells us all we need to know about their desire for transparency, honesty and a privacy revolution.

  3. @ hamsterwheel

    hello again hammy

    lets correct your normal quotes


    , yes you can click that "LITTLE" opt out button, you know the one below that BIG GREEN YES PLEASE ONE, but this only stops the adverts, you are still intercepted and passed via the DPI switch and traffic monitored and your privacy invaded


    Hmm, so why at then follow it through and click on "online ad revolution" then on the 3rd screen does it clearly show channels being made up of "keywords " and URL's
    and on the next (4th) screen it clearly says and i quote "advertisers and agencies can show ads to users whose browsing matches these keywords and URL's a specific number of times over a specific period", so please explain how it does that without storing your browsing history, EVEN BERR SEEM TO HAVE MISSED THAT ONE


    incorrect google and all other tracking sites only work when you are looking at their site or that of an affiliate or partner, phorm are sat in between you and the internet, and so see EVERY CLICK, IMAGE AND SEARCH YOU MAKE, there is no privacy in thet


    yes they do , the phorm UID is unique worldwide, i can sign in to different sites as different users and limit people being able to track me, but with phorm i have a single UNIQUE UID this means i am tracked no matter what site i visit under any nick or alias and that could be used along with the data in my profile to identify me


    this one i good, phorm control the creation of channels and block certain keywords to prevent undesirable adverts being shown, BUT the data is still collected and held in your profile, so it is available if phorm decide to relax these rules and allow additional categories in the future OR and advertiser finds a way around the rules

    also if the word "BLACK" is in my profile how does phorm / OIX know if it is used in a simple term due to me looking at black cars or it was used in a racial sense as i was researching the black slave trade for a school project?

    there are many other words with context sensative meanings "MALE" / "FEMALE" can be applied to plugs / sockets or used in sexual context etc etc

    the list goes on

    did i miss anything hammy


  4. Phil Main

    @ Hamsterwheel

    hello hammy still working for the man. Still peddling the half truths and the company line ? Come on we've asked before where are the results that you say proves we all love this muck ? If it's whiter than white then show us. If we all love it so much why the legal eagles , why no straight answers ?

    Sorry no takers here

  5. They wouldn't need to set up an ISP, all they'd need to do is set up a free public proxy, so anybody that wants "more relevant advertising" and "fraud protection" can simply configure their browser to connect though a Phorm proxy, and Phorm wouldn't have to share a single penny of their earnings with any ISP, let alone half of it.

  6. HamsterWheel

    What a lot of fuss about nothing. All Phorm does is give you, and only if you opt in, slightly more relevant ads. And it retains no data, and sells nothing to any third party.
    Much less a threat to privacy than half the global giants already out there (Google etc).

  7. If Phorm has nothing to hide, they`ve nothing to fear. so come on Phorm, put up or STFU with threatening media companies which is another evil thing, apart from Phorm, to originate in the good ol` USA.
    I for one am nearly at the end of my BT contract and already scoping out Phorm-free ISPs.

  8. I think, unless Phorm shows evidence to the contrary, we can assume Around four in five (84%) of those surveyed by said they would not be happy having their surfing habits tracked in this way and four in 10 (42%) would consider leaving their internet service provider if they introduced a system such as Webwise.

    Have you signed the Downing Street Petition against Phorm and this sordid product Webwise yet? circa 21,000 people have.

    Phorm is very wrong.

  9. OK Phorm and BT if this survey is wrong show us the proof. Show us the results of the survey that you keep quoting. You know the one that says we love Phorm so much we would cut our own throats and join BT just to get it, its so good. If it's so good why all the legal threats, evasions and refusals to answer legitimate questions on its legality, just where did you get your legal advice from you've never said? Why all the salting of comment pages by pr staff pretending to be someone not connected with Phorm?

    Bad Show

  10. I wonder how keen Phorm really are to enter a courtroom and defend their product, considering that there has been a determined effort by many campaigners to achieve exactly that, by asking for prosecutions to take place with regard to BT's covert trials of Webwise technology without user consent, in 2006 and 2007, raising the possibility of action under RIPA, PECR, MCA, DPA and both civil and criminal copyright legislation?
    I hope Which? get good legal advice and resist this attempt to muzzle them with legal action. Perhaps even consider a counter action.

    Nicholas Bohm QC's FIPR legal opinion has been out there on the web for months,
    and it makes it quite clear, as do many other published articles, that there are serious questions about the legality of the Webwise product as explained by Phorm to the world so far.
    If Phorm want to give testimony under oath, and face cross-examination by well briefed counsel, and offer technical experts the opportunity to grandstand before the world's media in a test libel case, then no doubt they will pursue the case against Which? – somehow I doubt it.

    As i understand it, the issue at stake with the Which? article centres around whether Phorm are "selling personal data".

    In that case, the discussion around what constitutes personal data, and to what extent the Phorm UID (prepared on the basis of the profiling of a substantial amount of personal data, and made available to advertisersers for commercial gain), does or does not constitute personal data in it's own right, is one that should be ocurring in the public realm, "transparently and openly" and not being prevented by threats of legal action.
    What are Phorm afraid of? They have always claimed to be leading a privacy revolution, to be operating transparently and openly, despite their past actions as 121Media, when they were involved in marketing what many people alleged was spyware.
    When will the current CPS investigations into the covert Webwise trials 0f 2006 & 2007, come to a conclusion?
    When will BT finally announce the rollout of Webwise?
    When will Virgin Media and TalkTalk finally come off the fence over their own attitude to Webwise?
    Phorm must be anxious about all these matters, given that they are behind schedule for the rollout of their product, given their own optimistic earlier predictionsand have seen their share price fall by 90% compared with last February when they so boldly announced their agreements with three major UK ISPs. Is it all unravelling for Phorm in the UK?

  11. Information Deleted is Listed Below:-

    Now Phorm Release your Original Survey & Prove otherwise!

    Around four in five (84%) of those surveyed by said they would not be happy having their surfing habits tracked in this way and four in 10 (42%) would consider leaving their internet service provider if they introduced a system such as Webwise.