Yesterday saw some of the worries and concerns about the sneaky Deep Packet Inspection technology from the controversial online advertising snooping company Phorm, which has been been illegally tested out on unsuspecting British Telecom Retail broadband internet users, being raised at both the British Telecom plc Annual General Meeting of shareholders, and in a Parliamentary Written Answer.
There is an excellent first hand account of the BT AGM, and the obvious embarrassment of the BT directors and corporate spin doctors at the pertinent questions asked by Pete from www.dephormation.org.uk: - BT AGM 2008 From the Inside
The next question I managed to put was resolution 7.
Resolution 7 - elect Gavin Patterson as a director
Did Gavin Patterson, as Managing Director of Consumer Division BT Retail, authorize covert 'stealth' (in BT's own words) trials of Phorm/121Media advertising systems in 2006 and 2007, technology that caused Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University and FIPR to observe "if you care about your privacy, do not use BT"?
I made a point of projecting my voice when quoting Ross Anderson. That seemed to leave the board, and shareholders reeling. Again, momentarily, stunned silence. Michael Rake started waffling again, so I interrupted him to point out the question was not to him, it was to Gavin Patterson...
Cue more Phorm nonsense from Mr. Patterson so I interrupted him to say "its a simple yes or no question Mister Patterson, yes or no?". Of course I didn't get my answer.
On to resolution 9, appointment of Ms Hewitt.
Resolution 9 - elect Patricia Hewitt MP as a director
When was Ms Hewitt first informed by BT that it had conducted covert 'stealth' trials (BT's own words) of Phorm/121Media advertising systems? Does BT believe Ms Hewitt, or any other MP, would welcome interception of their unencrypted communications for advertising?
Michael Rake tried to shield her with more waffle. Ms Hewitt is obviously well used to handling difficult questions... She rescued him from deep embarrassment. She didn't specify a date, but mentioned a board meeting. Amazingly, she left herself hostage to fortune by saying she would opt in to Phorm because she trusted their assurances.
What is the former Labour Minister Patricia Hewitt MP doing on the BT board of directors ?
Can it be a coincidence that she spent four years as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and then a couple of years as Secretary of State for Health, until Gordon Brown eased himself into power as Prime Minister ?
The Department for Trade and Industry, through some strange process of Orwellian NuLabour Media Management Consultancy New Speak, has now mutated into the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (what exactly have they ever done for you ?), and they have mentioned Phorm in
a two Parliamentary Written Answers yesterday:
Data Protection: Internet
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent action the Government has taken to ensure that internet users are not sharing personal information to online companies and third parties without their consent. 
Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 19 May 2008]: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister asked Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, and Dr. Mark Walport to conduct a consultation on the use and sharing of personal information in the public and private sectors as part of their independent Data Sharing Review.
For example on the matter of Phorm, the ICO made a statement on 3 March that it was in discussion with Phorm about the nature of its service and the way it uses information about Internet Service Provider customers. My noble Friend the Minister for Business and Competitiveness has met BT which intends to run a trial using Phorm's service involving around 10,000 broadband users in the near future.
"My noble Friend the Minister for Business and Competitiveness" is the controversial Baroness Shriti Vadera, who was Gordon Brown's hated "policy enforcer" when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The ICO has discussed the trial with the relevant parties and BT has made it clear that, unless customers positively opt in to the trial, their web browsing will not be monitored for subsequent delivery of advertisements. The ICO will maintain close contact with Phorm and BT throughout the trial. It is important that people's privacy is protected, and the ICO, Phorm and BT are all committed to ensuring that any use of Phorm is compatible with the relevant privacy legislation.
Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had with internet service providers on internet tracking services and security online. 
Malcolm Wicks: The Department has regular meetings with internet service providers (ISPs) at which a wide range of topics are raised and discussed. On internet tracking services, Ministers have had discussions with one provider on this matter.
16 July 2008 : Column 410W
The statement of 18 April from the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) notes that the Information Commissioner has been approached by a number of individuals and organisations for a view on Phorm's Webwise and Open Internet Exchange (OIX) products. The statement is at:
It is important that people's privacy is protected, and the ICO are committed to ensuring that any use of Phorm is compatible with the relevant privacy legislation.
Do we detect a hint of panic at BERR, over the huge financial and economic implications of this Phorm / BT snooping, something which the Home Office does not bother to concern itself with ?
N.B. There is no "relevant privacy legislation" in the UK, there is Data Protection legislation, and Regulation of Investigatory Powers legislation, which is not the same thing !