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. ®
Following publication of this article, Phorm sent us this email:
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.
OFCOM might use OIX?
"According to that wiki article, it says the BBC, ft.com, The Guardian, iVillage, Universal McCann, Myspace, MGM OMD and Unanimis had initially expressed an interest about Phorm."
Universal McCann says on its website that OFCOM is its customer
Phorm did know of the conflict of interest policy
Phorm were warned on March 17th about editting their own article due to the conflict of interest policy, so for them to claim they were unaware is a pack of lies.
It's all documented on the Wikipedia discussion page.
Talk to the hand, baby.
It has been very encouraging to see the many ingenious ways that folks on here have suggested can be employed to derail the Phorm project. However, petitioning the Prime Minister's office (currently about 10k signatures) is unlikely to be fruitful unless you are a TV sleb like Jamie Oliver and the government can win some kudos by tossing a few millions at the problem to make it go away. This is different.
The government will seek to embrace this technology with the same feverish enthusiasm and ignorance that they displayed when they jumped on the database bandwagon. Phorm have invented the Perfect Trojan; they are no longer outside the city walls pissing in, now they are inside, urinating in your face. How could NuLabour not fall in love with that?
A cornerstone of government economic policy right from the get go has been 'light-touch regulation' which effectively means industry regulators are under funded, under motivated and promptly sidelined if they show the least sign of possessing a backbone. So not much hope there.
The jury is still out in relation to the legality of the BT/Phorm unauthorised spying operation involving 20,000 customers of the ISP. Don't hold your breath.
It isn't all bad news, however. Do a Google search for the word 'phorm' and you are rewarded with 420,000 hits, so somewhere the storm clouds are gathering. And that in my opinion defines the correct attack vector for dealing with this insidious technology. Phorm, or as it was phormerly known, 123Media, is a business that is based on delivering ads by means of stealth and subterfuge to ISP customers who have been psychologically profiled without their permission. Last time I checked Psychology was a branch of the medical profession but no doubt the appropriate ethics commitee has been suitably rePhormed to comply with the new ethical standards as per BT and its sinister new partner.
Strangely, for a company in the ads business, Phorm is something of a shrinking violet when it comes to making its presence known to potential victims. It prefers to do its business scuttling about in the dark corners far from the spotlight of publicity. The obvious question is, can we create a Perfect Storm of publicity that will overcome the Perfect Trojan and all those who profit from its doings? Yes we can.
The object of the exercise is to elevate the word Phorm to the same generic status as the word Google which is now included in modern dictionaries as a verb meaning 'to search'. Every communication, be it snail mail, e-mail, blog or forum posting should have the word Phorm dropped into it no matter how irrelevant it is to the main subject matter and obviously the connotation is not benign as in Google. You can have lots of Phun by indulging in a little punning.
British Telecom have already Phormed.
Virgin Media are believed to be Phorming.
Carphone Warehouse are understood to be better inPHormed than their two competitors.
Its called InPHormation Technology.
Get the word out.