Feeds

Phorm: How it went down

What could possibly go wrong?

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Multiple sources have told The Register throughout that the hit to BT's reputation caused by the Phorm controversy made Retail quite unpopular with other divisions.

So BT and Phorm's clumsy attempt to apply lipstick to their latest news pig - a consistent failing of the disastrous PR efforts surrounding the whole project - on a basic level either backfired or should've been dismissed.

On a more sophisticated level, however, the truth of BT and Phorm's separation is unlikely to be a simple capitulation to consumer concerns. It's a convenient and familiar narrative for journalists, but unsatisfactory given the determined personalities and powerful interests involved.

We've heard testimony this week from BT insiders that a good deal of the silence and delays on the Phorm project was a result of engineering problems, not concern for customer privacy. Put simply, the system could not be made to work. Despite Phorm's claims soon after its launch that it could process and categorise user traffic on the fly, testing in the real world said otherwise, one source revealed. Significant slowdown was measured when the deep packet inspection probes were switched on.

This problem sent Phorm back to the drawing board, to return with an "offline" version of its system, which would analyse a copy of each user's data stream. it's unknown whether this approach was successful.

As well as technical problems, our sources report continual internal debate over the legal status of the technology, contrary to public statements. Towards the end, we're told, a great deal of effort was made by BT lawyers to draw up a contract that would insulate it from any liability if website owners or consumers were to mount a legal attack.

Indeed, a large chunk of the tens of millions of pounds raised by Phorm has ended in the pockets of pricey corporate lawyers.

This reporter ran into Phorm CEO Kent Ertugrul at a party held at the offices of one such firm of pricey corporate lawyers in May last year. It was the second time we had met. The first was in the early days of the story, when he gave us this interview.

Our most recent encounter was at the Palace of Westminster, when Ertugrul angrily brandished a print out of the cookies dropped on readers by The Register. That was moments before he tried to shout down Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Greatest Living Briton™, across a parliamentary committee room.

Journalist colleagues and industry figures we've spoken to agree he's a difficult man to like. According to people with direct knowledge, Ertugrul is a difficult man to work with, too.

The Register has spoken to some who worked for Phorm. Around the time of the pre-Christmas purge, when half the board were forced out by Ertugrul, along with many support staff, one described the atmosphere as "hellish". The report was corroborated by staff from other parts of the business.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.