Republished: rejects Phorm

Originally published on 26 March 2009

I've been having a conversation with recently, they provide the DNS Re-Direct for, about Phorm and the Webwise system. Although I completely disagree with Phorms systems using Opt-Out, I also do not want to help them monetize their customers browsing behaviour.

So, some time back I sent an e-mail to their website exclusion list, stating that I did not give permission for them to scrape my site for their own benefit. I received a reply effectively stating that as the WHOIS query for the domain ( does not match my details, the request was being viewed as unauthorised and would not be actioned.

Because belongs to, and is used by a number of customers, it's not exactly possible to rectify this issue. Whois databases don't contain information on subdomains (lets face it, that would be nigh on impossible to keep up to date) so that leaves us a bit stuck. are generally a pretty good company, so I figured I'd drop them a line explaining the issues I was having, and how it affected them.

They were pretty friendly, and had a look over Phorms website (being an American company, they've sort of missed the Hoo-Hah a bit). Phorms site doesn't actually contain the e-mail address to use (hadn't realised until they told me) and they queried exactly what the impact was.

So I explained in more detail what the webwise system entails, and the impact upon privacy. Of particular relevance to (or so I believed) was the impact on copyright of their customers sites, plus privacy implications for anyone running a web interface to a mail server.

Long and short of it is that I received an e-mail today stating that they were in the process of adding both their free and their enhanced domains to the exclusion list.

I'm not sure exactly how many customers they have, but I imagine it is quite a few. It should be representative of quite a few sites no longer being open to Phorm.

It would appear however, that Phorm take action as soon as you add yourself to the exclusion list, I noticed quite a few hits after I sent the initial opt-out ( which they rejected) and I'm sure some were from a domain that I traced back to Phorm (I'd have to dig out the logs to confirm), and they had a pretty good crawl of the site.

I'm guessing that this probably means they scanned the site for keywords, and will use these rather than the current content when someone visits the site. Presumably they will crawl the site again at some point to update their database, and when they do I will contact them (and BT) to state that I do not give permission for this either, and to find out if they honor robots.txt

Still, need to wait for them to take another peek first!