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Home Office defends 'dangerously misleading' Phorm thumbs-up

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Westminster gets Webwise

Separately yesterday, BT despatched spinners to the offices of Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster. He has been the national telco's most vocal critic in Parliament over the secret trials, branding them "disgraceful".

The BT representatives maintained the party line that no personally identifiable information was shared, but were told that Foster intends to continue to push for the trials to be investigated. He is waiting for replies from Jacqui Smith and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Foster's early day motion on the subject has now garnered 36 MPs' signatures, from all the major parties.

The Liberal Democrats say that they are not opposed to a ISP tracking their subscribers for advertising purposes if consent is obtained. However, a party official told The Register that it wants to see the law upheld over the covert communications interceptions that BT acknowledges it carried out.

The ICO's public comment on Phorm/Webwise addresses only the upcoming deployment. It has once again been amended, however, this time to add qualifiers about whether Phorm has been truthful. A sentence added to "version 1.3" states: "Whether or not the deployment of the Phorm products raise matters of concern to the Commissioner will depend on the extent to which the assurances Phorm has provided so far are true."

It's known that a file has been opened by the ICO in the case of Weston-super-Mare businessman Stephen Mainwaring for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). He was misled by BT that his computer had a spyware infection, when in fact his connection and tens of thousands of others had been co-opted into a secret Phorm/Webwise trial.

Bohm's legal analysis, also released on Wednesday, further details police refusal to investigate BT and Phorm's alleged large scale law breaking. As we reported last week, front line police passed the buck to the Home Office, which then refused to act, saying it has no role in investigations. It attempted to pass the buck in turn to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a body whose powers are limited to complaints over interceptions carried out on behalf of government agencies.

BT has refused The Register an interview regarding its actions over Phorm/Webwise. ®

Update

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

FIPR is abusing its influence and promoting its own agenda by encouraging a frivolous debate about the legality of a legitimate e-commerce business. Internet users would be better served if FIPR focused on the benefits of the online technologies available today rather than undermine the online privacy debate and block technological progress. That would help people to make valid informed choices about the services they want to use.

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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