ISPreview - Alexander Hanff Anti-Phorm Interview
Alexander Hanff (Anti-Phorm) Interview
By: Mark Jackson - June 25th, 2008 : Page 2 -of- 4
"Advertising companies are not known for being ethical; in fact it is safe to say that the inverse is true."

2. Could you briefly explain what, in your view, Phorm is and which three of its aspects trouble you the most?

AH: Phorm is an advertising company and all they are interested in is how much each UID can make them with regards to financial returns. Advertising companies are not known for being ethical; in fact it is safe to say that the inverse is true.

The main areas of Phorm's business model which concern me the most are:

  1. It is illegal under criminal and common law to intercept and/or process communications data without consent.  The police need a warrant to intercept your communications yet Phorm and their ISP partners think they are above the law and should be able to do as they wish.  Frankly the Home Office and ICO have only reinforced that situation by refusing to act.
  2. Mission Creep - if you look at the Phorm patent applications and their registration with the Information Commissioners Office, it is clear that the long term plans for this technology are much more sinister than they are letting on.  Both resources clearly show that they intend to not only intercept communications, not only modify the content of those communications but also that they will be handling financial and personal data and plan to export that data outside of the EU.
  3. Offensive - Phorm are attempting to productise people based on their private activities and behaviour in order to sell that information to the highest bidders.  It is like the Local Council sorting through all your rubbish and selling the information to third parties advertisers so they can send you more junk mail.  I personally find their technology incredibly offensive and everyone else I have spoken too apart from Phorm investors feel exactly the same.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the forthcoming protest outside BT’s meeting in July and what you hope to achieve?

AH: There are two focal points with regards to the protest at BT's AGM:

1.  Increase public awareness of the issues.  It is inevitable that we will reach a large audience at the protest itself but also the media and press coverage will extend that audience much further.  The more people start to investigate the issue, the more public outrage will grow and eventually that will hopefully be met with action from government and other relevant authorities.  The right to privacy is an inalienable human right and must be defended at all costs.

2.  To present the City of London Police with a dossier containing evidence and witness statements illustrating the illegal nature of the 2006/2007 covert trials by Phorm and BT, for the purpose of initiating a full criminal investigation and hopefully prosecution of those involved.

4. Do you have any plans for further action after the protest?

AH: I have set up the NoDPI web site to extend the battle beyond Phorm at the appropriate time.  At the moment the site is dedicated to the Phorm issue but we are starting to see the same technology used by other companies for the purposes of behavioural advertising and undermining other internet based technology such as video on demand and VOIP.

The debate extends beyond privacy issues into areas such as the Digital Divide and Net Neutrality and as a technologist and social scientist I have a duty to my conscience to fight these issues over the long term.

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