Phorm philling

UK satirical magazine, Private Eye, this week brings the ludicrous Stop Phoul Play website to my attention. This is a corporate spin site devoted entirely to defending BT’s underhand and intrusive ‘Phorm’ online advertising technology against what it calls ‘privacy pirates’ who they claim are either being paid or pushed to damage BT.

Those listed as ‘piracy pirates’ include the excellent investigative IT journal, The Register, the Open Rights Group and the brilliant Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), along with numerous bloggers and contributors to web forums. Now, it may be that some other corporations with rival technologies would like Phorm to fail, just as Microsoft probably enjoys it a great deal every time Google takes a PR hit (or vice-versa), but to suggest that everyone who make a criticism of Phorm is secretly part of some conspiracy against BT is frankly, either stupid paranoid.

And there are very good reasons for being critical of Phorm in the trojan-like manner of its operation and the way in which it has been tested without the consent of users. As Private Eye also reminds us, Phorm has landed the UK government in legal trouble with the EU. It hardly needs a conspiracy to make people justifiably annoyed.

This is one of the weirder exercises in PR I have seen, not least because its paranoia and promotion of conspiracies can only be damaging to BT. Thus it is no surprise to find that, according to the The Register, that it is the product of the fevered imagination of Patrick Robertson, whose previous clients include the lovely General Pinochet and former Tory MP and convicted liar, Jonathan Aitkin. So go take a look at Stop Phoul Play (while it still exists…) – it really is quite insane.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

4 thoughts on “Phorm philling”

  1. It blew me away that the site was launched (with ‘privacy pirates’) at the same time that news attention in Somalia and piracy was really reaching a state of daily fervor – absolutely stunning that they would (seemingly) try to equate the two.

  2. Well, the PR people behind this are pretty vile and shameless. Anyone who could try to put a positive spin on a murdering dictator like Pinochet would have to be.

  3. Well, it does seem to be a self-defeating choice. The website itself it also trying so hard to seem ‘hip’ and ‘down with the kids’ that it is painful. It’s like watching your dad trying to do b-boy moves at a a party…

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