Phorm hits back at ‘smear campaign’


28 Apr 2009

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Digital media technology firm, Phorm, which has received a stream of negative publicity over privacy issues relating to its targeted online advertising software Webwise, has today launched a website that it says “hits back at the privacy pirates’ smear campaign” against the company.

In a statement on the new Stop Phoul Play site, the company says: “Over the past year, Phorm has been the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated by a small but dedicated band of online privacy pirates who appear very determined to harm our company. Their energetic blogging and letter-writing campaigns, targeted at journalists, MPs, EU officials and regulators, distort the truth and misrepresent Phorm’s technology.”

The company also says that the so-called privacy pirates have resolved to use guerilla warfare against Phorm in the media. “Their openly-stated objective is to try to harm the company through negative PR.”

The site gives details of a number of negative media reports that it says resulted from this campaign against Phorm, and responds to each of these.

The site also names several people and organisations that it says are responsible for the campaign.

Phorm has attracted criticism because of the way it scans stes to track online user behaviour. The technology works with internet service providers (ISPs) to target ads by using deep packet inspection. The company says it does not store user data or histories.

Last month, the UK-based Open Rights Group (one of the groups named on the Stop Phoul Play site) wrote to a number of the world’s leading online companies, including Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Facebook, AOL, Bebo, Yahoo!, Amazon and eBay, requesting that they opt out of Phorm.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it will not allow Phorm to scan any of its pages to create targeted ads, while Wikimedia has also opted out.

Two weeks ago, the European Commission started legal proceedings agiainst the UK Government for failing to enforce European data protection rules, following testing of the Phorm service on the BT network without user consent.

By Grainne Rothery