Broadband News

BT to implement better Phorm opt-out

BT are to develop an alternate method to record your opt-out status to Phorm as opposed to the default cookie based system that relies on your computer storing a cookie to indicate you are not a Phorm user. This follows TalkTalk's decision along the same path back in March and is good news for consumers as it will ensure the opt-in or opt-out status of your account is held more reliably, and is also possible to work across multiple computers on the same Internet connection.

Earlier this month the Information Commissioner Office (ICO) announced that ISPs using the Phorm system had to make it opt-in to comply with European law. This is definitely a step forward for the consumer, but ISPs TalkTalk and BT Retail had already pre-empted this to help ensue consumer confidence in the system.

There are, however, still concerns with regards the legality of the opt-in where computers are used by multiple people. Nicholas Bohm of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) has indicated in his legal analysis of Phorm (PDF) that the EU law as referenced above by the ICO actually requires consent from the "data subject", which could be any user of the computer / connection, not just the person who ordered or pays the bills (paragraphs 55-58). In a letter to LINX he goes on to explain that ISPs will need to get consent from all users stating that one possible way to do this is to have the subscriber to the service promise that they are authorized to act on behalf of all users. This could well be a flawed approach as it is unlikely to be the case, particularly of unknown future users of the computer. With no easy way to actually identify the person using the computer, time will have to tell what approach is taken towards this by ISPs.

See our news archive for previous Phorm articles.


Next weeks headline - "Phorm goes under"

  • gayboy-ds
  • over 12 years ago

Bohm is just one vested interest opinion. If you use someone else's PC or internet connection you should expect to be bound by their agreements just as they will expect you not to do anything that may put them in a difficult position.

  • herdwick
  • over 12 years ago

I hope BT customers "opt-out" in the best way possible - choosing another ISP.

As they will still fool the masses into signing up to this by dressing it up as a must-have anti-phishing tool (a bit like their secret traffic shaping service is dressed up as "unlimited").

  • keith_thfc
  • over 12 years ago

Where's the official BT detail on this? Afaict it comes from a chat between a BT press officer and a Web 1.5 site I've never heard of [1].

As always, the devil is in the detail.

Their shares had started a tiny recovery, having fallen back to where they were 12 months ago. If true, this BT decision should be the end of their business plan.


  • c_j_
  • over 12 years ago

A word of warning to BT and any other ISP considering sharing my data I will not ever think of using you if you ever change your conditions even an opt out is not good enough you are sharing data with a third party who i dont have an agreement with . I would hope like Keith says that many actually leave because of the underhanded way this has been carried out.

  • Aqualung
  • over 12 years ago

And BT's statement is missing the necessary assurance that should you not opt-in, your data will not pass through phorms machines. That, rather than cookies, is the real issue.

  • carrot63
  • over 12 years ago

There is currently no way website owners can prevent Phorm/Webwise pimping the traffic between the server and a visitor - not unless they want to remove their site from ALL search engines.

There has been some discussion on the legalities of this where a notice forbidding interception has been placed on a website. BT will be guilty of an illegal interception, but a BT user who has opted in to the Webwise system would be guilty of incitement if they visited such a site (however it is unlikely they would be charged).

  • jelv
  • over 12 years ago

I no longer trust anything BT do and say. This whole business has ensured I will 'opt-out' and go to another ISP.
Hit BT and the others in the only place they care about, their income.

  • fish2ways
  • over 12 years ago

Does anyone have experience of mobile broadband coverage in Cornwall? I travel down their regularly and am thinking about signing up with a mobile broadband provider but have heard coverage can be poor in some rural areas. I’ve been looking at various different mobile broadband providers here: and am leaning towards Vodafone.

Any advice would be great. I don’t want to sign up and find I’m paying for a product that doesn’t work!

  • carolinenational
  • over 12 years ago

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