Peer protests BT's Phorm trials

Peer protests BT's Phorm trials

Summary: At a protest against the trials of the ad-serving technology, peers, protesters and BT shareholders aired their grievances

TOPICS: Security

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  • Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller joined a protest, held outside BT's annual general meeting in the Barbican Centre, London, on Wednesday, against the 2006 and 2007 trials of the ad-serving technology Phorm.

    Miller was protesting against what she characterised as "illegal" trials of the technology, which were performed without gaining BT customers' consent. There were around 15 people involved in the protest.

    "The fact is BT conducted illegal trials," Miller told "They intercepted people's communications without their consent. That can't be any more legal than someone slitting open a letter addressed to me and reading the contents."

    Although both the Home Office and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) have said they will not take action over the trials, Miller said that she will be asking questions in Parliament regarding the adequacy of data-protection laws.

    "If the trials were not illegal, which they should be, it is because the law hasn't kept pace with technology," said Miller. "Is the government up to the job of regulating what's happening? Is the legislation out-of-date, or is it that the government isn't enforcing it properly? I'm very concerned that the government isn't on top of this issue. The buck stops with them to regulate what ISPs are doing."

    Miller claimed targeted ad technology was unpopular with citizens in the UK. A New Media Age survey published on Wednesday found that 65 percent of UK adults would leave their ISP if it introduced targeted behavioural advertising.

  • Alexander Hanff, an IT specialist who organised the protest, said protesters were aiming to raise awareness among BT shareholders.

    "We've been handing out flyers to shareholders," said Hanff. "These technology trials were wrong, illegal under British law, immoral and offensive. In order for the technology to be legal, there needs to be consent [from everybody involved]."

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • BT's Phorm Trials

    While not wishing to comment on the specifics, it's sad that we now live in a world when the leaders of industry and government play so loose with truth, honesty, integrity and moral values. What an example to the rest of society!

    Phorm is so obviously despicable to any right thinking person and is only the thin edge of the wedge unless we can stop this creeping disease.

    Similarly, BT's trials (and 'fibs' when queried about unexplained activity) are also so obviously illegal, despite all the statements to the contrary, not to mention a massive breach of trust with their customers.

    As with all other undesirable Internet activities, I have to ask where are the duly constituted authorities (Police, Courts, CPA, etc.) and what are they doing?

    As for Parliament, they seem to find it easier to harass the general population rather than deal with real issues. However, I believe they do not wish to oppose Phorm in principle for their own reason, i.e. government snooping using this or similar technology.
    The Former Moley