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April 28, 2009 | Jim Killock

Phorm and the Home Office: cold comfort to citizens

You’ll probably have read today that leaked emails have shown that  the Home Office worked with Phorm to offer advice that would give “comfort” to their investors. We condemn this approach to law enforcement: the Home Office's job is to uphold the law: not to reinterpret it for commercial interests.

It is extraordinary, when compared to the blatant disregard Phorm has shown towards UK laws in its secret trials, that such a lax attitude can be shown.

This revelation is yet another reason why major websites should make a stand for the rule of law and exercise their right to block Phorm from their websites.

Meanwhile, in what feels like a deliberate attempt to distract from the leaked emails, Phorm have launched a rather desperate attack on a range of activists, some of whom are simply private citizens. If Phorm wish to attack us –  they can go ahead, as we are an open and accountable organisation.

Attacking individuals for letter writing is however in practical terms an attempt to intimidate and is not the action of a responsible company, especially one that claims to respect privacy rights.

Although we are of course extremely flattered that Phorm see the Open Rights Group as a threat, we feel that when a multi-million pound company finds itself needing to launch attacks against campaign groups, it is likely that it is in deep trouble.

For the record, it should be no surprise that FIPR and ORG have close links: we are part of the same movement to make sure the digital age delivers benefits to citizens, and that our human and legal rights are built in to new technologies.

Phorm really ought to be picking on someone their own size: perhaps Commissioner Reding, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, or Amazon and Wikipedia, all of whom have stood up to defend privacy rights against Phorm.

Meanwhile, we urge you to write to major companies asking them to block Phorm. Phorm are an increasing reputational risk to internet businesses: they need to reassure customers and opt out. Find a list of contacts for major sites here.

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Comments (5)

  1. View From Planet Jamie » Blog Archive » Schoolby Smear Tactics In The News:
    Apr 29, 2009 at 09:38 AM

    [...] Open Rights Group: Meanwhile, in what feels like a deliberate attempt to distract from the leaked emails, Phorm have launched a rather desperate attack on a range of activists, some of whom are simply private citizens. If Phormwish to attack us –  they can go ahead, as we are an open and accountable organisation. [...]

  2. Concerned Citizen:
    May 01, 2009 at 12:24 AM

    "Phorm really ought to be picking on someone their own size: perhaps Commissioner Reding, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, or Amazon and Wikipedia"

    Hear, hear. A cowardly attempt to intimidate private individuals. An equally cowardly refusal to engage in a real public debate about the legality of ISP's interception of private electronic correspondence.

  3. Links 29/04/2009: Ex-Microsoft Executive Says Microsoft is Doomed, FOSS to Thrive | Boycott Novell:
    Apr 30, 2009 at 12:29 AM

    [...] Phorm and the Home Office: cold comfort to citizens You’ll probably have read today that leaked emails have shown that the Home Office worked with Phorm to offer advice that would give “comfort” to their investors. We condemn this approach to law enforcement: the Home Office’s job is to uphold the law: not to reinterpret it for commercial interests. [...]

  4. BT Customer:
    Apr 28, 2009 at 05:20 PM

    Actually one small correction - those emails between Phorm and Home Office weren't "leaked" they were released at the end of a lengthy and exhausting FOI process - part of our democratic freedoms - nothing seedy or underhand. Otherwise - great article. In September Lord West of Spithead seemed to know all about them. By this month he claimed NOT to know about them. Strange that.

    And a confession from me, seeing as the smear site criticised people who did this - I confess - I wrote to EU Commissioner Reding. Such presumption!! And me just an ordinary private citizen at risk of having my internet traffic snooped on by Phorm and BT. Or maybe I really am part of a many-headed hydra and a conspirator against Phorm?

  5. Ralph Corderoy:
    Apr 29, 2009 at 09:29 AM

    Can you clarify the opting out process? I've seen comments that the robots.txt method results in others being blocked, e.g. Google. Is this true? It should be publicised more in criticisms of Phorm's statement that it's easy to opt out. Does that mean the only way to opt out of just Phorm is to contact them directly requesting it? If Phorm's documentation on how to opt out isn't clear or easily found, perhaps ORG should have a page that clarifies on their behalf. ;-)



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