Ben Tasker's Blog

Republished: Second time I've contacted BT about Phorm

Originally published on on 8 Mar 2008

Well, I've just emailed BT for the second time about this Phorm debacle. I contacted them the first time outlinign my concerns, and included a Data Protection Act notice effectively barring them from passing my details outside the EU, to any third parties (except where required by law) or using any data other than that required to fulfil their contractual responsibilities.

Got a really, really crap reply telling me what BT WebWise is, how it's fantastic for the consumer etc. but not addressing a single one of my complaints or concerns, not aknowledging the DPA Notice. Simply put someone read the first line, typed WebWise into the PC and copy n pasted from the script without reading the rest of the letter.

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Republished: A bit of info on the Phorm Debacle

Originally published on 5 Mar 2008

The tech news pages are alive with the news that BT, Virgin Media and Talk Talk are planning to sell its customers browsing information to a company named Phorm.

BT claims that the new 'service' Webwise is intended to improve the browsing safety of its users. It includes a list of Phishing sites, and warns users when they attempt to connect to one of the listed sites. Newsflash for you guys: FIREFOX ALREADY HAS THIS FUNCTIONALITY. Its nothing new, and of no real benefit if you already have a browser that does this. It's also not a lot of use if you are wary of emails from institutions that ask for personal details.
Unfortunately WebWise also sends your browsing history (and a copy of everything you send/download on unsecured connections) to Phorms servers where they will profile it and effectively mangle some of the pages you download to include adverts that they believe may interest you.
This mangling will only happen on pages that run adverts from Phorm, not every site will be effected.

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Republished: CPS trying to bluff RIPA Action?

This was originally posted to 14 Nov 2007

This story caught my eye as it holds consequences for all of us. Well those of us that use encryption anyway, as you may be aware on the 1st October 2007 RIPA came into effect. To but the law basically, if you encrypt something then the police can require you to hand over your encryption keys. If you don't and it's not terror related then you can get 2 years in the slammer, if it is terror related then you are looking at 5 years.

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Republished: Software Patents Raised Again in the UK

Originally Published on November 2007


No, it's not MS doing it, but the issue of Software Patents is being raised again in the UK. Four small companies are raising the issue at the High Court, claiming that the current UK laws do not fall in line with EU rules, and are therefore stifling innovation.

The Register carries some details on this but the short version on the story is that these companies do not believe that the ban on patents for disks and downloads is correct. As they correctly state, Copyright protection does not grant the protection that a patent does, but I believe this is a good thing. Patent law in the US has caused the rise of the 'patent troll', companies that create nothing but patents, and then sue other companies for infringing their patents.

The mess in the US should be enough to tell everyone that software patents are bad, bad news. Many believe the patents themselves stifle innovation, there are just so many patents filed (many of them obviosu things) that you cannot create anything without risking infringing upon someone elses patents. This is not a situation we want to see in the UK, software is not an invention. It may be difficult to write, it may 'invent' a new concept, but at the end of the day it is nothing more than a set of instructions telling a device how to act.
If the software for a washing machine had been patentable, then there could only be one brand legally selling washing machines in the UK. This would have left the consumer paying far more than in todays reasonably competitive market.

The whole concept of patents was to encourage innovation, by allowing you to maintain a government approved monopoly on your invention for some time. Where software is concerned, the opposite happens, people are wary of starting or releasing new projects in case a patent has already been granted. Hopefully the High Court will find against the plaintiffs, but until then, things are going to be tense in many programmers houses.