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TalkTalk make Phorm opt-in
Tuesday 11 March 2008 15:44:34 by John Hunt

TalkTalk have taken the honourable decision to only pass on your browsing habits to Phorm if you opt in to their system. Rather than using the previously mentioned method of opting out based on a cookie on your computer that identifies you as an opt-out, TalkTalk will implement a different system that will mean customers will have no contact at all with any aspect of the Phorm service unless they specifically opt-in.

This is a definite step in the right direction to ensure users aren't accidentilly included if they manage to clear their cookies for example, and we hope that Virgin Media and BT consider this as the best way forward and ensure that their systems are also opt-in. This then leaves the onus on Phorm to ensure that the system is compelling enough to attract customers, but also means that the ISP will get less revenue from it, which may be a discouragment to make it opt-in, particularly with the figures (an estimated £85million to BT) that Phorm will bring in.

Our friends over at The Register who have been following this story extensively have interviewed CEO Kent Ertegrul of Phorm to get some more information about exactly how the system works. Although long, it is worth a read if you are concerned over privacy issues that may arise from the sharing of what you browse with a third party.

Following an online chat last week with Phorm, a further one is planned for tonight at 2030 to help further address user concerns.

See the following articles for more on this issue:

Comments

Posted by pje1979 over 6 years ago
Never thought I'd say this but well done Talk Talk.
Posted by nervous over 6 years ago
Agreed, but can you trust them?

I for one don't care how safe they claim it to be. I DON@T WANT IT in any shape or form!
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
Talk Talk have been smart as IMHO they will still get most people signing up to this as the average punter will just see "free phishing tool" ads everywhere and think its something they need.

After all look how many people signing up to "free broadband".

If Talk Talk really cared about their customers privacy they would ditch this.
Posted by jrawle over 6 years ago
"Phishing tool"? Is that how they are going to advertise it? I can't see why anyone would sign up for this system unless they are mislead into thinking it's something different as it has no benefits for the user at all.

Wouldn't it be a good idea to get the national press onto this? Get big stories into all the tabloids urging their readers not to sign up for this. Hopefully Phorm will collapse and we won't have to worry about it any more.
Posted by Clearsky2 over 6 years ago
Good on Talk Talk - maybe Think Think?

I suggest that B.T. is wide open to a future US style class action on invasion of privacy/ Tort (should the info go missing) / Unfair Contract Terms (customers get Phorm or else). So where's OFCOM on this? What, on 'holiday'?
Posted by kmendum over 6 years ago
re Ofcom: nah, light touch regulation - what problem ;-)
Posted by Clearsky2 over 6 years ago
I suppose one question for the Adware advocates is: What if parents do not want their children's surfing habbits spied on? Effectively Phorm, et.al. will be collecting data on minors.
Posted by nervous over 6 years ago
Just thought, if the opt in only covers if they're served advertisements then their surfing info will still be being collected.

Despite all the assurances that no personal data will be collected, the only way to make sure of that is not to let them spy on us in the first place.
Posted by mctechlog over 6 years ago
A step, but in the one step forward two steps back - your access is still likely to be monitored. I wouldn't use an ISP that used this, opt-in or opt out. I'm not the only one who deliberately clears cookies on a regular basis to preserve privacy. "accidentally included if they manage to clear their cookies indeed!"
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
mctechlog is right - you can't trust them not to spy on you anyway even if you don't opt in.

Talk Talk will get most customers opting in anyway. All they have to do is send an email to users telling them how great the free phishing tool - just like their "free" broadband.
Posted by carrot63 over 6 years ago
Somebody just blinked.
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
They are not saying "please sign up so we can spy on you". They are saying "get this free phishing tool to be safe from online fraud".

You only have to look at the BT page to see this.

http://webwise.bt.com/webwise/index.html
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"Just thought, if the opt in only covers if they're served advertisements then their surfing info will still be being collected.

Despite all the assurances that no personal data will be collected, the only way to make sure of that is not to let them spy on us in the first place."

quote"...you can't trust them not to spy on you anyway even if you don't opt in."

LOL and so it continues..... its a conspiracy i tell you all, aliens abducted me also and took me to an advert filled world where their leader Mr Spy made me promise i would tell and of you about it......... ahhh opps!
Posted by carrot63 over 6 years ago
>>They are not saying "please sign up so we can spy on you". They are saying "get this free phishing tool to be safe from online fraud".

Utterly classic, isn't it? They seems to be taking a "well if we're going to tell lies, they may as well be large, brazen, highly polished and delivered with the sort of conviction associated with politicians denying wrongdoing."

The saddest thing is that I'm sur many will swallow it whole.
Posted by kamelion over 6 years ago
Carpetburn I wonder if you would be so condescending if Sky signed up for phorm? Lets face it, they can't be making much money charging customers £10 can they? Estimates of £85 million potential earnings for BT are being bandied about which sky would find very tempting.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"Carpetburn I wonder if you would be so condescending if Sky signed up for phorm?"
I wouldnt care
quote"Lets face it, they can't be making much money charging customers £10 can they?"
You forget where they do make their money.... TV
quote"Estimates of £85 million potential earnings for BT are being bandied about which sky would find very tempting."
Already been through that and tried to explain to people on one of the other news storys its about making money and not being a new version of MI5.(CONT)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
If my ISP (which isnt sky) decided to go with phorm and i had that much issue about it id just shout MAC PLEASE... not difficult is it. Reading some of these comments are very funny at best and at worse sheer paranoia.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
ukonline are owned by sky but treated as a seperate business so hopefully we will escape phorm.
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
Pretty sure other credible ISP's won't touch this with a bargepole after all the negative publicity.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
I admit I don't get this, TalkTalk.

Whhy would most people opt in? What advantage do they get? A few different advert banners? Er..
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
People will opt in because they are told its a FREE anti-phishing tool which protects against online fraud.

http://webwise.bt.com/webwise/index.html

Posted by medit over 6 years ago
Carpetburn, I don’t think people’s worries about someone hijacking and profiting out of their browsing sessions are that amusing. Some may have initially thought that this is a minor issue, but the more technical details about the system are revealed, I think all this fuss seems more and more justified.
A system that reroutes and stops all initial HTTP requests and later intercepts the whole content of the page requested and (filtering out @ddresses and numbers) categorises keywords feeding a profiler should be something to worry about. <cont.>
Posted by medit over 6 years ago
Some more recent news on the patent they filed in the US for their system are quite revealing. Among other things, the possibility is mentioned to intercept protocols & ports outside HTTP/80. The system could also modify client-requested data therefore changing the content of webpages before delivering them. Nice. Who exactly safeguards that these will not be at some point implemented (mind millions of profit involved). Yes the answer is getting a MAC and switching, but for those with Virgin (without a BT landline) or in the start of lengthy contracts that may not be so straightforward/cheap.
Posted by Guzzo over 6 years ago
Once again I say
1) Would anyone actuallt request this Phorm Nonsense if asked?

2)Whats to stop Phorm Sharing its technology/results with Governement if asked/ordered?

3)The best Opt/Out Opt In is simply

GET A MAC CODE AWAY FROM THESE THREE ISP'S!
They are after all three of the worst anyway.
Posted by Guzzo over 6 years ago
This system is WIDE open to abuse. What is to stop the information that Phorm gather falling into the wrong hands? What if Phorm itself gets hacked into? After all hackers get into the Pentagon systems now and again and is Phorm going to be as secure as them?

Its so typical that it's the UK that Phorm target first for this privacy invasion. They know they would not get a look in if they tried this in the USA!

Posted by Guzzo over 6 years ago
I think that just about says it!
The people in Britain have no privacy to start with and what little we do have will now be shared with Phorm and whoever they then pass it on too. they say they won't. Now when has any one believed big business and their stated intentions. Its their actions that matter and I for one do not trust this lot and neither should anyone else.







Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Guzzo - Right. And again, if you want to try and persuade someone convinced BT are the only option... It's easier for me to use encrypted DNS and hosts file blocking.

And Keith.. that's called deceptive advertising and they *can* be called on that.
Posted by keith_thfc over 6 years ago
Dawn_Falcon

Its not advertising, just an internal communication to its existing customers, so they won't be worried about the ASA (who are utterly useless anyway).

Its exactly the same way AOL have forced customers to use their adware software for years.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Keith, no, actually if they're advertising a service as anti-spyware to their customers then it must be that. The ASA has acted before against scam anti-spyware software which collected private data.

The ASA has very strict rules on what it can consider, but that one is perfectly clear.

The difference with AOL is that it is all explained up-front. Thwy say quite plainly they track browsing.
Posted by Guzzo over 6 years ago
"to use encrypted DNS and hosts file blocking"
explain in simpleterms how users should do this.
Has anyone posted this Phorm plot in the BT or Virgin forums yet?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Guzzo; As and when I expect there will be a simple software package for end-users from a few people, setting it up otherwise is a pita.
Posted by Stuartli over 6 years ago
>>Wouldn't it be a good idea to get the national press onto this?>>

The Mail on Sunday had a big piece on this very subject at least a fortnight ago.

As for CARPETBURN's obscure ramblings, I learned to ignore them a long time ago...:-)
Posted by JDPower over 6 years ago
It was also mentioned briefly on BBC News' Click program at the weekend but (AFAIK wrongly) stated that it would be a purely opt in service, whereas from what I've read prior too this story the ads are opt in, the data collection is not.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
BT have now admitted that, last year, when they said they weren't trialling Phorm, they actually were trialling Phorm.

Yahboo sucks to BT.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/17/bt_phor

Doubtless there'll be an AG news article in due course.

Wrt simply blocking/avoiding it: you might easily block the ads, you can't easily avoid the monitoring. (Not if you're a BT Retail customer anyway).
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
The proper URL is:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/17/bt_phorm_lies/
Posted by digitalrob70 over 6 years ago
When businesses get new management teams and elections usher-in a new Government, neither has to abide by the promises of the old regime.

Even if you believe Phorm's promises, and you'd trust them with your life, there's no guarantee that they won't be bought-out by another company who will ignore the promises. The only way to stop them using your data in ways that you find objectionable is by stopping this scheme.
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