September 30, 2008 | Becky Hogge

4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial

Today, BT will start trials of Webwise, a technology which analyses your web surfing habits in order to serve you targetted ads. If you're a BT Total Broadband customer, you might be asked to consent to being part of this trial. Here are four good reasons not to.

  1. You gain nothing. BT is looking to profit from its deployment of behavioural targetted advertising technology, but you stand to gain very little. Unless the offer of "more relevant advertising" is something that holds a special promise for you, what you are getting in return for allowing BT to analyse your web surfing habits is an "anti-fraud" feature which is unlikely to give you anything more than the features already built into web browsers Internet Explorer 7 (available for free upgrade to existing Internet Explorer users) or Firefox 3 (also free) - or Opera (thanks for the tip, Glyn!).

  2. BT has already trialled Webwise on its customers - without telling you. BT are only asking for your consent now because the authorities that regulate data protection have told it it has to. BT already trialled Webwise - without asking your permission - in 2006 and 2007. That doesn't sound like a company you should trust to protect you and your family's privacy.
  3. BT are making you responsible for getting everyone who uses your computer to consent to being profiled by Webwise. The Government have told BT that in order for Webwise to conform to UK data protection laws, BT must seek the consent of everyone who uses an internet connection where Webwise is enabled. To get around this, BT have devised new terms and conditions for people who agree to trial Webwise that transfer this burden onto you.
  4. BT Webwise turns the web inside out. Competitiveness, universal access, and the transformative effects of the world wide web are all underpinned by the internet’s structure as a so-called "network of ends", and by internet service providers, like BT, adopting the role of a "mere conduit" of information. By intercepting communications between you and the websites you visit and using this information to target advertising at you, BT is compromising that role - becoming more like a television broadcaster than an internet service provider.

Concerned digital rights campaigners have fought a long and hard battle over Phorm, the technology used in BT Webwise. During this battle, it has become clear that there is no protection for UK citizens from corporations who wish to illegally intercept private communications for financial gain. Today it might look like campaigners have lost the battle against Phorm, but without their hard work, BT may not have been forced to ask your permission to take part in this trial at all - it could have simply assumed it.

If you'd like to find out more about how Phorm works, read this technical overview. If you would like to know more about the legal ramifications of Phorm, read this legal analysis. If you would like to get active, visit and

Previous posts on Phorm:

Comments (13)

  1. Florence:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 02:38 PM

    @ Andy Bold

    Join PM kits she will get the hold of them and get the plugin uploaded to another location that will be passed onto you via PM. Please remember he always said that this will not save you just help you need to move to an new ISP.
    I have posted a link to this page to help our members who are BT customers but feel more needs to be done to get this message out there.

  2. » British Telecom startet neuen Phorm-Versuch » Politik in der digitalen Gesellschaft:
    Sep 30, 2008 at 04:02 PM

    [...] britische OPen Rights Group hat “4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial“: 1. You gain nothing. BT is looking to profit from its deployment of behavioural targetted [...]

  3. Phorm testing begins today - now you can consent « UK Liberty:
    Sep 30, 2008 at 03:24 PM

    [...] Becky of the Open Rights Group has posted 4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial. [...]

  4. andySpace » How to lose friends and alienate people (looking at you, Dephormation):
    Sep 30, 2008 at 10:54 PM

    [...] Update: The Open Rights Group (a fine organisation who have my regular support) has a post on their website that explains the Phorm/Webwise trial, and the implications, much better than I can. Please read it. [...]

  5. Andy Bold:
    Sep 30, 2008 at 11:01 PM

    Imagine my excitement to hear about the Dephormation plugin for Firefox, and the added protection it will bring me while my ISP trials this system.

    Imagine my disappointment to discover that the Dephormation web site blocks access to that plugin because my ISP is BT. (And will be until January, when my mandatory first year of subscription expires. But trust me, by February I will be with somebody else.)

    Gah! And as I type this I discover that I can't even fill in the Contact form at Dephormation because, when I hit the "Send" button, I get redirected to the block page again.

    As much as I dislike what BT are doing, Dephormation aren't helping us out here.

  6. British Telecom startet neuen Phorm-Versuch | World of Warcraft:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 06:41 AM

    [...] britische OPen Rights Group hat “4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial“: 1. You gain nothing. BT is looking to profit from its deployment of behavioural targetted [...]

  7. A Very Worried Messenger:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    I Second the views of Dephormation, if you value your Privacy or your Data Protection & are using BT as a Private Customer, Retail Section ask for a MAC code NOW & migrate to a Phorm Free ISP.

    Since BT "Have not given" any idea to any of their Retail Customers as to where this Trial is taking place, I would consider it a priority to assume that all of BT Retail Customers may be going through this Profiler, so take such action regarding your privacy as you think fit!

    I was subject to these so called trials in 2006 & 2007 & I know they did not just turn off the Profiler at the end of the leaked tests, but kept on fine tuning certain aspects of the Profiler Coding!

    I am only still on BT to help others with advice on how to leave as & when/if necessary!

  8. Dephormation:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 11:25 AM

    To Andy, and other BT subscribers...

    Its important you understand that the Dephormation add on can't offer you any substantial protection.

    All of your data communications traffic will pass through at least part of the Phorm system (web, email, instant messaging, streaming, P2P) and any application which uses the net to communicate will be at risk of 'Phorming' (web browser, email apps anything that obtains content via http).

    The only way to protect your communications is moving your internet service to a new provider, one who understands the long term significance of trust, privacy, security and data integrity in communications services.

    If your preference, expressed merely as an 'opt out' cookie is ingored, the Police, ICO, Ofcom, no regulator will act to protect you.

    And nor can I. That's why the download is no longer available to BT customers.

    Its time to abandon BT. Move to a new ISP.


  9. A Very Worried Messenger:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 08:02 PM

    @concerned webuser
    Try this link it should explain most things about a MAC code.

    You use MAC code to switch broadband providers without a downtime on your internet connection.*
    MAC Is abbreviation for Migration Access Code and is 17-18 digit alphanumeric code.

    If your Enquiry is BT Specific the best I can do is advise you is to look at this Link.

  10. Webwise? « Bridget’s Blog:
    Oct 10, 2008 at 12:54 AM

    [...] that I’m complaining - if the Open Rights Group is correct, it’s an offer you definitely can afford to to refuse.

  11. concerned webuser:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 07:36 PM

    Please can someone explain the whole process of getting the MAC code. Who do you ring and what departments do they transfer you through, what questions do they ask and what replies are expected.

    Once you have the MAC code what happens next? Who do you give this MAC code to, who are these new ISP companies that can be trusted not to Phorm your private internet surfing.

    Maybe there is already a website that contains all the information a fed up customer can be refered to so they can ditch BT once and for all.

    Thank you.

  12. Petty. Me. Uk. » Recent Links, 20081001:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 06:10 PM

    [...] The Open Rights Group » 4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial BT are really a bunch of sods. Simon, do something about it. When I blogged about this earlier, I [...]

  13. Insite | The Open Rights Group: Blog Archive - 4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial:
    Oct 01, 2008 at 05:21 PM

    [...] use of thousands of its customers. It hopes to use results to develop targeted advertising.  The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » 4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial - Outrage as new Phorm trial begins [...]

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