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BT and Phorm and implications

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Sep. 22nd, 2008 | 09:33 pm
mood: not sarcastic in the slightest

Those who are not residents of London (and in fact some who are) may not be aware that the City of London is a distinct area of government to other parts of London for various fascinating historical reasons absolutely nothing to do with money and privilege, run by what is known as the City of London Corporation. The City of London, these days, is pretty much an entirely commercial (mostly financial) area and has only a tiny population, and it is not only residents who are allowed to vote in council (Corporation) elections - organisations with premises in the area also get votes based on how many employees they have.

(One little social detail that it may be useful to be aware of, here, is that calling somebody a "city boy" in London may have a different meaning than it may elsewhere. It may not simply be taken as the opposite of "country boy", but may be taken as "City boy" i.e. some sort of grotesquely overpaid short-selling wanker who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.)

This is of course merely one of the charming anachronisms that this country is famed for and in no way makes it anything like, say, a company town. In any case, it is perfectly democratic - if you want to influence the way it is governed, start a billion-pound corporation. You know, just like anywhere else.

The City also has its own police force, the appropriately-named City of London Police, as opposed to the Metropolitan Police (the "Met") who are responsible for the rest of London. I mention this as co-incidental background for the recent announcement that this august body will not be investigating British Telecom's curious decision to improve the experience of its customers by secretly tracking and intercepting their communications in collaboration with a company called Phorm. Detective Sergeant Barry Murray reportedly writes:
The matter will not be investigated by the City of London Police as it has been decided that no Criminal Offence has been committed. One of the main reasons for this decision is the lack of Criminal Intent on behalf of BT and Phorm Inc in relation to the tests. It is also believed that there would have been a level of implied consent from BT's customers in relation to the tests, as the aim was to enhance their products.
The matter of "implied consent" seems interesting to me, on the basis that, when the deal and activities were discovered, there was immense outcry amongst BT customers, something that BT no doubt knew might happen given that, ah, they decided to do it secretly in the first place. Who am I to judge, though? Doubtless these are very respectable and informed chaps who know far more about the internet business and how it works than I do. The police are famous for it.

It is good, though, that it has now been established that if your "aim was to enhance products" you actually manage to obtain consent even if you don't tell anyone about it and they complain afterwards. So, for instance, if I was selling toilets and put cameras in them, claiming that I just wanted to enhance my product by gathering important data regarding toilet use, and everyone called me a pervert and pointed to my financial links to scat sites, I would be fine, so long as I was based in the City.

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Comments {3}

soho_iced

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from: soho_iced
date: Sep. 23rd, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
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Have you been there at the weekend? Off the main thoroughfares, it's like the Marie Celeste. Wierd part of town.

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fridgemagnet

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from: fridgemagnet
date: Sep. 23rd, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
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I have, when working there on weekends. It's pretty quiet on the main roads too. It is also very inconvenient because most of the places to get food shut on the weekend, and you pretty much have to take a packed lunch.

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exit wound in a foreign nation

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from: dyfferent
date: Sep. 23rd, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
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Seriously, how much do the City of London Police charge? I understand Scientology got them for a few dinners and shows, have their rates gone up lately?

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