Not good Phorm

Every time I hear something about Phorm I get the impression that they are not nice people to deal with.  It has been reported that they have taken umbrage at an article in this month’s Which? magazine entitled “Internet users say: don’t sell my surfing habits”.

Basically, Phorm is an advertising company.  Their program works by sitting on servers at your ISP (so far BT has signed up – though not yet started the service, and Virgin and TalkTalk are looking at installing the program).

Sitting on your ISP’s servers, your websurfing habits are logged anonymously.  Phorm go to great lengths to tell us that the information they log do not include sensitive information, and the information can not be traced back to any individual.

They say that consumers will like their service because it offers us two things: personally relevant adverts and anti-fraud filtering.

Two things I don’t need:  More anti-fraud filtering, and personalised advertising.

I already have anti-fraud filtering offered by my anti-virus, web-browser and search engine provider.  I’m not sure theirs is going to be any better than I have – personally I think it’s a distraction from their main business – selling personalised adverts.

If you use Facebook you will probably be aware of their advertising which uses your profile information to serve you “relevant” adverts.  My marital status was set to single so I was constantly getting “39 and still single” adverts.  Did I think: “Wow what a relevant ad I must surely click on it to find out more.”?  Nope, I thought: “How patronising and creepy.”

So I changed my marital status to nothing.  Now I just get get quick rich adverts.

Phorm say that we really don’t want irrelevant ads.  I say, I want relevent ads to the website I am visiting, but would prefer the website to control that.  Personalised adverts are very creepy. I would also say the the MOST annoying adverts are the pop-ups that block the content I am trying to read.  I tell you, I don’t visit those sites twice.

Back to Which?  I found their article and press release fairly even handed, but clearly Phorm thought it was defamatory. If there’s one thing that makes me suspicious about a company it’s heavy handedness with discussion.  They tried responding to critics for a while, but have clearly changed their strategy to intimidation.

Watch them closely.

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    12 Responses to Not good Phorm

    1. James Digbey says:

      If you think Phorm are heavy handed, just look at the BT Users forum http://www.beta.bt.com/bta/forums/index.jspa where any discussion about the use of Phorm/BT-Webwise is censored. Any comment on the subject is deleted and users are banned for continuing to ask questions.

    2. admin says:

      Well, you’ll not be surprised to learn that this little harmless article has already been perused by someone at Phorm. They really are hot on their “reputation”. Wonder when I’ll get the solicitor’s letter?

    3. Armegedon says:

      Sorry if I attracted Phorm etc to your Website but I think you are right there seems to be a “Pernicious Cartel at Work”.

      Phorm as before I stand by every word I say!

    4. Don’t worry about their sabre rattling there is nothing wrong with your blog post. They tried to do the same with me and NoDPI so I just told them to bring it on and funny enough no solicitor’s letter ever arrived.

      Phorm seem to be dying a death with moral within the company at an all time low according to my sources, their latest moves can only be seen as a dying fly’s attempt to survive just that little bit longer.

    5. David Jones says:

      Does anyone know where I can see/get a copy of the orifinal press release?

    6. admin says:

      Although the online version of the story has been removed – I believe you could still find the article in a paper copy of Which?

      I’d be amazed if Phorm managed to get Which? to scrap its whole print run in time.

    7. David Jones says:

      I’m off to the local library to scan it in and post up online then :D

    8. Nicole Gross says:

      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.

    9. just me says:

      Like most people, I hate ads. Hate them with a passion. I will go out of my way NOT TO DEAL with ads. That would include changing my ISP were they to agree to such a deal.

      Ads are a pest industry that the content providers love because it gives them a second income. In line with that thought, you see just what is important when it comes to customers wishes or the added income. The majors are quite willing to ignore customer wishes for the bottom line.

      When you get a company that is litigious as is being displayed in the behaviors of Phorm, you get the distinct impression that they are hiding something. It looks anything but above board.

      Add to that thought, the owner of Phorm was for a long time heavily into malware and it leaves you with the impression that leopards don’t change their spots, despite their pleas of best intentions.

      I don’t need more anti-fraud filtering, especially at the cost of more ads. It is my understanding the apps used are freeware anyway. Not much of a bargain there if you can get it for free without ads. Again it adds to the feel of sliminess for the whole affair.

    10. Alleycat says:

      From the original post above: “It has been reported that they have taken umbridge at an article…”

      To avoid confusion, I’d like to point out that “Umbridge” is actually the name of a place. The word you are looking for is “umbrage”.

      On topic, I would never trust any company that started life installing spyware on computers without the knowledge of the owners of the computers. The way they conducted the secret trials with BT shows that BT are just as untrustworthy.

      So, Phorm has now shown that it really does have something to hide by trying to silence critics via legal channels. As the old saying goes, “If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear!”

    11. admin says:

      I humbly accept your correction Alleycat.

      A more mature response from Phorm should surely to have been to let the article go out as it was, and ask Which? to publish a response from Phorm to “correct” the supposed errors. To rely on lawyers for PR management is not the way to go.

    12. Pete says:

      You can find a copy of a Which? survey on Wikileaks…

      http://wikileaks.org/wiki/UK_media_suppressed_Phorm_survey_and_article,_2009

      Phorm is mass personal surveillance, mass industrial espionage, and mass intellectual property abuse.

      It is completely illegal, and the BT Directors responsible for the stealth trials in 2006, 2007 and 2008 must be prosecuted.

      Phorm must be stopped.

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