Phorm admits 'over zealous' editing of Wikipedia article

Send in the clowns

Updated Phorm has admitted that it deleted key factual parts of the Wikipedia article about the huge controversy fired by its advertising profiling deals with BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse.

The tracking and ad targeting firm said in an email: "We wanted to clarify a number of inaccuracies in the Wikipedia entry on Phorm."

As we reported yesterday, a number of Phorm-friendly edits were made to the page on Friday. The revisions were quickly reverted by a Wikipedian who argued that they made Phorm out to be "awesome and perfect".

In a telephone conversation, a spokesman for Phorm refused to comment on why it had tried to censor a quotation from The Guardian's commercial executives describing the ethical stance they took against its tracking system. He also refused to talk about the deletion of a passage explaining how BT admitted it misled customers over the 2007 secret trial.

Phorm also deleted a link to the The Register's report on the 2006 trial, and accompanying reference to BT's own document. It said that the aim of the trial was to validate that users were unaware of the presence of the tracking system.

The spokesman said Phorm's PR team had not been aware of Wikipedia's policy on conflicts of interest. Among many other rules they violated, it states: "Producing promotional articles for Wikipedia on behalf of clients is strictly prohibited."

A BT representative meanwhile wrote in an email: "I don't see anything wrong with correcting Wikipedia articles about your own company or services."

However, the edits made by Phorm included silencing factual primary information, that has been acknowledged as correct by the parties involved. ®

Update

Following publication of this article, Phorm sent us this email:

Hi Chris

We let you know yesterday that we had proposed amendments to the Phorm entry on Wikipedia – there were several factual inaccuracies that were pointed out to us. Having reviewed our suggested changes with hindsight, we accept that we were a little over zealous in our efforts to make those corrections and that we erroneously removed some relevant items in the editing process. These were quickly reinstated by Wikipedia’s editors. We will endeavour to make sure that this does not happen in the future.

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