How to Stop Phorm Indexing Your Site

Phorm is used by several major UK ISPs to spy on their users

Phorm is used by several major UK ISPs to spy on their users

Phorm is a controversial adverising system being trialled by some UK ISPs*. It works by tracking any site a user visits, and then sending a spider to that site to index it for advertising purposes. So basically spyware, but alarmingly it’s spyware installed at your ISP, so you have no control over it’s tracking of your surfing behaviour.

If you own a site or a blog and you feel uncomfortable about this development you could normally choose to block the system by adding an entry to your robots.txt file. Phorm don’t play nicely with this though. They’ll only dodge your site if your robots.txt blocks both Yahoo and Google. Frankly, blocking spiders from the two biggest search tools isn’t an option (and we presume Phorm know this). I find this kind of unhelpful setup pretty revealing about Phrom’s attitude to users in general.

Your only practical option if you wish to block Phorm’s spiders is to submit all your domains manually to this email address:

website-exclusion{at}webwise.com

I’d advise all site owners to do so immediately, for the protection of your users.


*UK ISPs currently signed up to Phorm include BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media. The latter of whom are bastards anyway.

Update (06 July 09):

BT have decided to pull out of Phorm. Hooray!

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2 Responses to “How to Stop Phorm Indexing Your Site”

  1. Pete Says:

    No one should have to opt out of communication interception, industrial espionage, and copyright theft.

    Phorm are capturing information about the visitors to your web site, and duplicating your web pages without consent (at least search engines *ask* for pages, Phorm scrape them off the wire without asking).

    For ecommerce businesses its industrial espionage, copyright theft, and trademark infringement. The data is used to target customers with competitors ads.

    For creative writers, and bloggers, it is copyright theft. You won’t get paid royalties by Phorm.

    Until the law is properly enforced in the UK, there are some measures on Dephormation.org.uk you might like to try. Including forcibly setting the ‘phorged’ cookies that Phorm impose on your communications, to keep your visitors opted out.

    But make no mistake, no one should have to do this to protect the privacy/security/integrity of their communications.

  2. J D Says:

    Since the ISP/Phorm/Webwise Layer 7 switching gear is only supposed to be on http port 80, there is the option of .. web server: port no(eg 8080)…

    Main Webpage immediately redirecting to another port, but this can break your Website dependancies with some Web Users firewall setups.

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This page last updated 9 July 2009