UK Officials Accused Of Colluding With Phorm

from the that-would-not-be-good dept

While the US quickly condemned clickstream tracking as a likely violation of privacy, many were quite surprised when UK officials went in the other direction, suggesting that Phorm's tracking was legal. The European Commission was so annoyed by this that it's taking legal action against the UK for privacy violations. But, still, many people are wondering why the UK government said something like Phorm was legal... and now accusations are coming out that it's because UK government officials let Phorm take part in writing the policy. There are a bunch of incriminating emails between the Home Office and Phorm, including one where officials ask Phorm execs if they would be "comforted" by the position the gov't was about to take. In another, the officials ask Phorm to review the document and give feedback, prior to the gov't releasing the actual policy. Talk about regulatory capture... The government, for its part, claims that people are misreading the emails, but it's difficult to see how the emails can be misread when they blatantly ask Phorm to review the document, and inquire whether the company and its partners will be comforted by the ruling.

Update: On top of this, it appears that Phorm is now lashing out at critics, claiming that they're "smear merchants" and "privacy pirates." That sounds convincing...
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: behavioral advertising, collusion, privcy
Companies: phorm


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • identicon
    Tor, 29 Apr 2009 @ 12:33am

    Privacy pirate?

    I have never heard of "privacy pirates" before, but I must say that it sounds like a bunch of nice chaps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    joshua jones, 29 Apr 2009 @ 1:19am

    privacy pirates

    What does the term "privacy pirates" even mean? Do they mean that in the copyright sense? Not sure you can pirate another person's privacy.. Or maybe they mean it in the sense that the critics are attacking their ships at sea. Privately.

    Has the term "pirate" simply come to be that readily used as an attack on a person's legitimacy, such that the actual meaning of the word holds no signifigance? Sad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rose M. Welch, 29 Apr 2009 @ 1:36am

      Re: privacy pirates

      I was just thinking the exact same thing.

      I guess that pirate now stands for someone who is vocal and active in supporting what they believe, be it free music downloads, convenient gaming, or privacy.

      We should take it back. That, and 'porchmonkey'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        chris (profile), 29 Apr 2009 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re: privacy pirates

        I guess that pirate now stands for someone who is vocal and active in supporting what they believe, be it free music downloads, convenient gaming, or privacy.

        no, pirate means anyone who denies a corporation the profits it believes it is entitled to, regardless of the direction the market has moved in.

        if you download movies, music or software, those industries believe that those downloads are all lost sales, and that they have been denied profits on those sales. that is the corporate definition of music/movie/software piracy.

        phorm believes that information about your browsing habits belongs to them, and that advocating for your privacy is denying them profits. that is the definition of privacy piracy.

        this opens a new door of orwellian newspeak possibilities:

        if you use a cell phone instead of buying a land line telephone, you are a phone pirate.

        if you watch hulu instead of subscribing to basic cable, you are a TV pirate.

        if you read news online instead of buying papers, you are a news pirate.

        if you advocate for electric cars, you are a fuel pirate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2009 @ 1:59am

    Sounds to me like an investigation should be launched to find out if any money or promises changed hands over this one.

    I don't see why it's in the governments interest to proclaim something like this legal unless they are taking something pretty hefty back from it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:36am

    Pirates are the new terrorists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SteveD, 29 Apr 2009 @ 3:41am

    At a guess I'd say the Government green-lighted this issue after pressure from BT.

    There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years over who is going to pay for the upgrading of the UK's broadband network to support higher speeds (8Meg is the maximum in most places, well short of other European countries).

    BT own a great deal of the infrastructure but (unsurprisingly) don't want to pay the massive bill to upgrade it. There was some suggestion that the Government should pay a chunk and that didn't go down too well with everyone else.

    So I'd guess that BT pushed Phorm on the British Government as a way-out of the whole mess; with the extra revenue they could afford to start upgrading the network. So the Government gave it a green light.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:11am

    Privacy Pirates?!?

    For Phorm (which tracks user activity) to accuse anyone of anything to do with privacy is so like the pot calling the kettle black.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan, 29 Apr 2009 @ 4:57am

    Privacy pirate

    I was just thinking the exact same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rob, 29 Apr 2009 @ 6:40am

    Privacy Pirates

    Argh Matey! There be secrets to plunder!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Galleria, 13 May 2009 @ 12:47am

    Privacy pirate

    I was just thinking the exact same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.