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Phorm Uses Lawyers to Silence Critical Which? Survey

Posted: 28th Feb, 2009 By: MarkJ
Phorm, which controversially works with UK ISPs to monitor what websites you visit for use in targeted (behavioural) advertising campaigns, has let loose the lawyers to stop us and other news outlets from publishing a Which? survey that highlights opposition to its service.

The survey itself was sent out on Wednesday and quickly summarised by a number of mainstream news providers before promptly being removed. The Register has kindly published Which?'s full retraction notice, which we've pasted below:

Which? Press Release Retraction

Urgent withdrawal of press release from Which? - Internet users say: don't sell my surfing habits

Which? has received further information and representations from Phorm about the proposed Webwise service, and it has agreed to withdraw the above press release, issued under embargo on 24 February 2008, while we consider them.

Some of the information in the press release and related article is said to be inaccurate and as a consequence may be defamatory. You are strongly urged not to write an article based on the press release or the related article 'Online privacy matters' in Which? magazine.

It's understood that Phorm is now working with Which? to help them "correct" the release, which is said to have alleged that the firms system collected and sold on data. We expect that the press release will be re-issued at some point in the future, albeit with certain elements having been removed or reworded.

Phorm has certainly caused more than a few privacy fears, not least because of BT's secret 2006 and 2007 trials, which were conducted without customers’ knowledge or consent. One public survey we ran last year also highlighted strong opposition to the service (Would you leave your ISP if it adopted Phorm?), with nearly 57% saying they’d switch to a different ISP if their existing provider adopted Phorm.

This week also saw the publication of a new survey by advertising firm Burst Media (Internet Users Concerned by Privacy of their Personal Data), which again highlighted a strong opposition to Phorm style advertising services.
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