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BT Retail to test Phorm system on 10,000 customers
Thursday 06 March 2008 11:19:56 by Andrew Ferguson

The Phorm system that BT Retail, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse have signed up to shows no signs of disappearing from the headlines. The Register has details on a 10,000 user trial over at BT Retail; the BT website detailing the service is webwise.bt.com/webwise.

The trial is set to start shortly in March and the invitation will require customers to explicitly opt-in. To date, the other providers involved have said very little about the system. Plusnet, which is owned by BT Retail, is largely unaffected at this time, though customers on their Pay-As-You-Go products who have two log-ins (RIN enabled customers) will have the option of using a pure Plusnet connection, or one using BT Central Plus and thus the Phorm system eventually. This post by a member of the Plusnet Comms team details how PAYG customers can avoid the system.

Reading the technical information so far released via The Register it appears that the Phorm system may add some latency to web browsing and represent an additional failure point. What many people do not realise is that when you type in a web page URL, this initial request gets the basic HTML page but after this a flurry of further requests are sent by your browser to obtain the various other elements of the page e.g. images. Thus a single web page load will be a myriad of HTTP requests. For those curious about traffic shaping the diagram has a set of devices labeled DPI, which we believe stands for Deep Packet Inspection which is most likely to be the Ellacoya devices for traffic management purposes.

One interesting possibility with targeted advertising is that if a persons profile shows that they are visiting a lot of broadband providers sites, the BT/Virgin Media/Carphone Warehouse portal might serve you ever more enticing advertising aimed at retaining you as a customer.

One question that has not been answered as far as we know yet, is how postcodes in the format AB1 2CD will be anonymised on the Phorm systems, since even if white space is ignored the two digits do not meet the 'three digits and above are anonymised' rule.

Comments

Posted by brindy over 9 years ago
invasion of privacy r us

i think i'll setup my pay as you go ultra-secure web proxy now. :)
Posted by uniquename over 9 years ago
Can you imagine what would happen if the Post Office announced it was going to use laser/Xray/whatever technology to record the sender address of every posted item then sell those addresses to advertisers for the type of goods sold by the receiving address?
Posted by jelv over 9 years ago
The precedents this sets are absolutely frightening. There is a petition against this on the 10 Downing Street website: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/
Posted by LCake over 9 years ago
You'll find a good write-up on Phorm and it's implications here :
http://www.politicalpenguin.org.uk/blog/p,294/

and an analysis of their patent in part two :
http://www.politicalpenguin.org.uk/blog/p,295/
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
We should all realise that nothing will now stop this from happening. Big business is involved and money is being made. The Government nor the regulator will do anything as this is an experiment to see how well we can be monitored. The UK Government is obsessed with control and citizen monitoring. Paranoi is not the case actually. Look at the police current survelleince of the populace. Worst in the Western world. Why? No one of matter is actually being jailed for any real long terms.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
In the UK this current Governement has covertly removed most blatant freedoms like free speech or free writings, in Germany one is jailed for making gestures.
This is I am afriad the price we pay for accepting and supporting extreme Socialist type people who take all and give nothing.
We get the Government we deserve. Also this applies to the ISP.
If you don't like phorm make sure ALL BT customers get informed and MAC away NOW.
I think it would also be helpful if someone actually laid out in laymans terms how to block this privacy invasion properly.
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
If as is cutom in the UK we just sit on our fat asses and do nothing then there is no point complaining about how every keystroke we make is sent off somewhere to be duley inspected by the local political Officer. If anyone thinks this can't or won't happen remember yesterdays vote on the EU in the Houshe of Shame. Don't underestimate the agenda of the wealthy Socialist
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
Where will online banking be f this sort of monitoring takes place and how long before the hackers get around to devising clever intercepts. If phorm can do this crap legally what is to be done about the illegal brigade hum?
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"BT Webwise automatically checks every website you visit against our list of known fraudulent or 'phishing' websites"

If BT were really bothered about phishing they
would simply recommend Mcafee's Site Advisor, Opera or IE7 which all provide this - without snooping on your surfing habits.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Guzzo? PILLS.

In any case, it looks very strongly like explicit opt-in will be required under the DPA.
Posted by jelv over 9 years ago
The opt-in is to receive targeted adverts only. Even if you do not opt in BT will still be sending the data to Phorm. One can only be very, very suspicious as to the reason why!
Posted by gunnersboy over 9 years ago
If you're against it then sign the petition here:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
PILLS
How dare you Mam!
I never take anything other than vitimins!
It will be interesting to see if BT gives an Opt-out.
Why would they after taking the cash for this ridiculous crap in the first place.
How dare they target people for online SPAM because that is what it is. Why do people install
firewalls/anti-virus/anti-Phishing/anti- advert/anti-pop up blocking S/W?
Because thay do not want this crap all over their monitors. but then when was BT ever interested in customers wants. Its all Pwofit isn't it?

Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
"BT will still be sending the data to Phorm"
And this is known how?
I signed the petition. So my personal details are already logged in at MI4.5's headquarters LOL.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"I signed the petition. So my personal details are already logged in at MI4.5's headquarters LOL."
If you believe some of the paranoia about Phorm and how your details are handled then i imagine MI5 have a hit squad outside your home right now as going against big business and government makes you a 'terrorist' threat LOL (twilight zone music) we control the horizontal we control the vertical and all that ;)
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
"(twilight zone music) " Hilarious!!!!
you must stop using keywords like "terrorist" and "Government". BT's little known box at Victoria HQ known as "Tinkerbell" will be recording all.

Paranoia is actually Total Awareness ROFL!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
In that case... Binladen, bomb, plot, terror, bang, middle east, war, iraq, hezbollah ...... did i miss anything??? oh no they are coming to get me.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
Petitions are a total waste of time. People have to take responsibility themselves - which means voting with their feet and choosing another provider which doesn't pimp out your data to known spyware companies.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
That's great Keith, persuade my "that broadband thing only comes from BT" landlord now..
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"Petitions are a total waste of time. People have to take responsibility themselves - which means voting with their feet and choosing another provider which doesn't pimp out your data to known spyware companies."
Have to agree, i did say in the other story about this if people are that paranoid just shout MAC PLEASE.
Posted by Canopus over 9 years ago
When I first explored how to block thew phorm cookie I went to the Webwise site and in the FAQs I noted you list OIX.net in your blocked cookie list. Now I see the FAQs seem to be changed and you are told to put www.webwise.net into your blocked cookie list. I'm rather suspicious about this, blocking www.webwise.net cookies may stop site cookies from them, but, if one's IP sets the OIX.net cookie which was initially the cookie that collects the data and serves the ads then surely you are back to square one. I've added both to my blocked cookies list.
Posted by wilsenda over 9 years ago
So we've lost freedom of speech and writing, huh? How come then that Guzzo's tirades can appear here - or has he already been dragged off to the Tower?

Artleyb
Posted by easyTree over 9 years ago
If you're a BT customer and sign the petition your name, email and home address are sent to Phorm as well as 10 downing street :D

I for one bow down before our PHishing-by-html-fORM overlords.

Posted by easyTree over 9 years ago
"If as is cutom in the UK we just sit on our fat asses and do nothing then there is no point complaining..."

As long as the uninformed are in a majority and have money, our freedoms will be eroded for profit.
Posted by Hanco over 9 years ago
March 15th - BT Support Forum...

QUOTE:
"SYSIP.NET ISSUE - UPDATE

BT can confirm that we conducted a very small scale technical test of a prototype advertising platform on one exchange in June 2007. The test was specifically conducted to evaluate the functional and technical performance of the platform. Absolutely no personally identifiable information was processed, stored or disclosed during this trial. As with all Service Providers, it is important for BT to ensure that, before any potential new technologies are employed, they are robust and fit for purpose."
Posted by Hanco over 9 years ago
Reply to Canopus:
You might block the cookie, but that does not mean you have stopped your dat going through the Phorm system. You might not see any trageted adverts, but are you still happy for your data to be snooped on by their system? And they are looking at another way of opt out (so they say)
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