An open letter to Sir Richard Branson & Virgin Media

Thank you to Andrew Mather for contacting me via telephone earlier today (Reference: 2913650 and 9109700) to assure me and the millions of other broadband internet customers across the UK, that Virgin Media has no plans to use software from Phorm, using live private customer information, without requesting permission from those customers first – even as part of a technical systems test “at this time“.

Thank you also for confirming that Virgin “have signed a provisional agreement with
Phorm to find out more about how the technology works
” but that “nothing has been
decided

I would have liked further confirmation that customers who do choose to opt-in to the test will have it fully explained to them that the Phorm system involves analysing their private web browsing habits in order to better target them with in-browser advertisements, should Virgin Media decide to go ahead with any such simulation.

Sir Richard. I am not the kind of person who follows particular brands, just for the sake of having a badge. However, as an exception to that, like many people around the UK and the rest of the world, I do feel that Virgin, along with the likes of Apple, do stand out as being the top most trust worthy names in technology, because of a proven track record for listening to what their customers actually want.

Simply put, I do not feel that there is any significant benefit to the consumer, from the Phorm habit tracking software, which Virgin ISPs around the UK are considering installing on their servers, as BT and Carphone Warehouse have already done; in fact I believe the system would be extremely damaging to the trust customers have for the Virgin brand, especially given the very public concerns of analysts, the BBC and members of parliament, such as Dari Taylor, who sits on the commons select committee for security.

Because of this, and the larger worries over security in general, not limited to concerns for what Phorm might do with personal information, besides use it to distribute yet more unwanted advertising – for my small part – I would like it to be known, Sir Richard, that should your company, Virgin Media, decide to go ahead with the Phorm scheme on an opt-out basis, even in a test scenario, I will have no hesitation in cancelling my Virgin telephone, cell phone and broadband internet subscription with immediate effect and encourage my friends and family to do the same.

I am sure that you agree, that there is little enough protection from the gradual creep into our private lives, which corporations increasingly abuse these days, without any serious opposition from either individual citizens or an ever less effectual government. For myself, in all conscience, to continue paying for a service from your company, which is so clearly geared towards increasing the spread of this intrusion, is completely unacceptable, on many points of principal, not limited to the moral implications of a third party company using my data to endorse the illusion of demand for yet more intrusive surveillance.

Phorm, I am aware, argue the complete opposite of this, by insisting that no personal information about individual users is tracked and that, if anything, their system is better than the current modus operandi of targeted advertising algorithms which traverse the IP address of the visitor to a site, without their consent.

This, in my opinion, is a smoke screen to Phorm’s actual ambitions, which is to harvest vast quantities of consumer on-line shopping habits in order to then sell that information on to yet another third party, who themselves could sell it on again.

This is clearly proof that the only people who will actually gain from the Phorm scheme, long term, are the very people who responsible on-line advertisers are so keen to distance themselves from, such as phishers, viagra spammers and front organisations for serious organised crime, who exploit the legitimate and worth while commercial opportunities of the internet, for their own selfish ends.

Not in my name.

5 comments on “An open letter to Sir Richard Branson & Virgin Media

  1. Good letter. I have already removed my Virgin Mobile SIM card and replaced it with another UK network.

    What I find absolutely astonishing is how the Home Office simply refuses to investigate the blatent breach of the law in the case of BT testing out Phorm’s spyware on unwitting customers during 2006 and 2007. Neither the Home Office nor police will accept responsibility for investigating a potentially criminal act. It is their legal and moral duty to do so.

    The government cannot expect citizens to have respect for the law when it seems to be the case of one law for corporations and one law for everyone else. It’s a joke.

    Please sign the Phorm petition here:

    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ispphorm/

  2. I certainly will sign the petition and I couldn’t agree more about BT and carphone warehouse. If I was one of their customers I would be seeking legal advice.

  3. such a nice brave mannerly boy – richard the lovie heart
    i remember the awful scruff and mess and dirt of strewn garbage i had to walk past every day at the back of the virgin megastore in oxford st in the late 80s while richard pranced and primped in his first public do-gooder role as mrs thatcher’s clean-up-london boy – such a nice brave mannerly boy but dirty behind the ears boy
    Phorm, virgin media’s contempt for it’s customers and the super-publicity-seeking phoney galactic tripping expose richard, the greatest conman in the history of mankind

  4. minor corrections
    AN OPEN REPLY FROM DERMOT RYAN TO AN OPEN LETTER POSTED BY JIM GARDNER ON MAY 7, 2008 TO SIR RICHARD BRANSON & VIRGIN MEDIA

    “Such a nice brave mannerly boy – Virginal Richard, the lovie heart.

    I remember the awful scruff and mess and dirt of strewn garbage i had to walk past every day at the back of the Virgin Megastore In Oxford st in the late 80s while richard pranced and primped in his first public do-gooder role as Mrs. Thatcher’s official clean-up-london boy.
    Such a nice brave mannerly smiling boy but dirty behind the ears
    His bad ‘Phorm’, virgin media telecom and website contempt for its customers and the obviously super-publicity-seeking phoney galactic tripping expose virginal Richard, the greatest prostitute for publicity conman in the history of mankind, taking his first dive “

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