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UK Police Investigate Alleged Phorm Lunch With Officer

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the no-crimes-committed-here dept.

Privacy 46

twoheadedboy writes "City of London Police are looking into claims one of its officers was given hospitality by Phorm months before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to not take the company or BT, which was using the software, to court. BT was trialling Phorm, which uses uses cookies to build a profile of users' habits and interests based on websites they visit, in 2006 and 2007, attracting the scorn of privacy campaigners. After much back and forth, the CPS dropped the case in April 2011. Now, privacy campaigner Alex Hanff, who discovered a document appearing to show an officer had been taken to lunch by Phorm in 2010, wants the case to be reopened."

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46 comments

You're nicked, son (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557153)

He's got Phorm.

Really? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557209)

Lunch is hardly reasonable as evidence of corruption.

Re:Really? (5, Insightful)

hawkinspeter (831501) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557213)

There's no such thing as a free lunch

Re:Really? (2)

mrclisdue (1321513) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557311)

I'm curious as to whether the next day, Phorm took the officer to the cleaners.

cheers,

Re:Really? (3)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557219)

Especially when the CPS makes the decision whether to prosecute or not, not the police.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557261)

A decision they make based primarily on information provided to them by the police...

Re:Really? (1)

Jancen (2609331) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557293)

the lunch was months from when the decision was made, and lunch makes a good interview tool and makes a person more at ease/trusting but so does sending a pretty young woman to answer questions. Sure it makes thing run smoothly during the interview but 8 months of thinking, investigating and paper work will far out weigh an hour and a half of lunch

Re:Really? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557411)

Sure it makes thing run smoothly during the interview but 8 months of thinking, investigating and paper work will far out weigh an hour and a half of lunch

Unless there's corruption involved.

But at first glance I'm inclined to agree with what the GP said.

Re:Really? (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558271)

There's likely to be corruption. This is the police force who was paid significant amount of money by the Murdoch Media.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557527)

It was just an innocent "interview" lunch, to set up an even more innocent all-expenses-paid "interview" cruise, to negotiate the conditions of a most innocent job "interview" - which would be held in a newly built summer home - for a lucrative consulting position which was so innocent, it would make the virgin Mary look like a filthy harlot.

Re:Really? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557599)

I know in theory they're independent. In practice... not so sure.

Remember the clerical error that let that bent bastard Harwood literally get away with murder?

Re:Really? (1)

thomst (1640045) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557713)

I say! Jolly bad Phorm, Bobby!

Re:Really? (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558753)

They also the acronym CPS wrong, it "Criminal Protection Service" - schoolboy error.

Re:Really? (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559343)

My wife is a public employee, so let me explain how this works. Every so often politicians get caught taking something from some special interest. Their response is to pass a tough new ethics bill. The catch is that it doesn't apply to *them*, it applies to public employees. So things get a little ridiculous.

When we bought our house, the realtor tried to buy us lunch and my wife had to refuse, because under state law for practical purposes she's not allowed to take gifts from anyone she's not related to.

It's *stupid*, but there you go. But let me tell you why this police case is important. What adherence to these stupid rules does is separate the scrupulously honest and conscientious employees from everyone else. When you are dealing with a question of public trust vs. private gain, if you don't understand you have to be above reproach, you don't understand enough to be responsible for that question.

Now working in private industry, I've often taken clients out for dinner or drinks. However I don't accept things (other than conference swag) from vendors. It's not that I think it's wrong, but I want to send the right message in each case. When I take a client out, the message is, "I'll take care of you." When I refuse to be taken out, the message is, "deliver the goods; I don't care about anything else."

Re:Really? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39560813)

What, so she can't even receive Christmas cards from friends? That is one tough law.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39561947)

When we bought our house, the realtor tried to buy us lunch and my wife had to refuse, because under state law for practical purposes she's not allowed to take gifts from anyone she's not related to.

So you weren't allowed to buy her lunch until after you were married? (or wouldn't have been able to if she'd been working there/the poliy was in place at the time). No flowers, no chocolates, no ring? I find this hard to believe.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39560489)

A large number of NewsCorp executives had lunch with senior police officers in similar circumstances. Some of the police officers received corrupt payments from NewsCorp which are strictly illegal.

Re:Really? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39560591)

Lunch is hardly reasonable as evidence of corruption.

Any police officer that can be bought with a mug of tea and a dried up cheese sandwich really needs to think bigger.

I read it wrong. (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557215)

I initially read the story title as "UK Police Investigate Alleged Porn Lunch With Officer," and was greatly saddened to learn the story was significantly less exciting than I had expected.

Re:I read it wrong. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557417)

It's just a routine phormography investigation.

TANSTAAFL! (2)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557259)

Seems this is pattern and practice within Met, or rather was.

One could suppose this luncheon happened prior to Operation Elveden having had effect upon allegedly corrupt officers' behavior.

Not the Met (4, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557495)

This was the City of London police, who are traditionally less prone to corruption than the Met*. Because they investigate sensitive fraud cases and the like, and because many of the criminals in the City have vast resources, the expected standard of police behaviour is much higher. If this officer did not file a proper report on the lunch, he should have done. (I don't know whether he did or not, so I have no opinion on that aspect of the matter.)

*To understand the Metropolitan Police, read the history of the Praetorian Guard in Rome. Boris Johnson knows his classics, and I suspect that is one reason why he fired the head of the Met soon after taking office.

Re:Not the Met (1)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557625)

Ta for the correction.

Re:Not the Met (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557865)

What you meant to say was:

"This was the City of London police, who are traditionally careful because they have to protect the sordid workings of the English financial sector while painting a veneer of respect for the law."

Re:Not the Met (2)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558303)

I guess what you mean is they're more careful than the Met and don't get caught since their advisers and bribers are way more clever than the Met's? There's never a case of "no corruption at the Police force", there'always a "not caught yet-corruption case".

Danger! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557265)

He should think twice about criticizing the police. They have so many powers now, even looking at porn on the internet, his ISP records can be pulled and him prosecuted and put on the sex offenders register. Yesterdays 'surveillance' story isn't new, previously they individually requested those records. That surveillance law Theresa May is putting in place, that just forces the ISPs to index everything you do ready for a future warrant or real time surveillance under the warrantless anti-terror laws. It simply removes the ISP from the loop and computerizes the searches.

I would think twice about any action that puts you on the police naughty list, because you have to live in the UK and the Tory's were not strong enough to overrule the police, so nobody is.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/29/interception_communications_commissioner/

"Public and security authorities made a total of 440,000 requests to monitor people's phone and internet use in 2005-2006.[15] In the period 11 April to 31 December 2006 the UK government issued 253,557 requests for communication data, which as defined by the RIPA includes who you phoned, when they phoned you, how long they phoned you for, subscriber information and associated addresses."

They closed the News of the World after it was admitted they'd hacked phones and paid police for leads, Rebecca Wade of NotW may have been arrested, but you can bet no police officer will be. Murdoch continues to stay out of jail practically immune from prosecution, his son James claims amnesia to everything, but he's never been arrested for it.

Re:Danger! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558225)

Police officers have been arrested in the NOTW investigation. I don't believe anyne has been charged yet though; police, journalist, editor or proprietor.

I'm in no way a Murdoch fan but I think James is in the clear for the actual payments to police and illegal voicemail hacking purely on timing. The open question for him is his knowledge of the coverup and specifically the pay offs to victims which were very large sums of money and had strong confidentiality clauses. There is a question as to whether these payments amounted to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (by keeping information out of court/public and police hands) which would be a very serious offense but I doubt it will stick far enough up the organisation to get James.

Anonymous because its the Murdoch's and the police we are talking about and its always safest that way.

Re:Danger! (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39560977)

Anonymous because its the Murdoch's and the police we are talking about and its always safest that way.

If I ever got that paranoid, I don't think I'd post anything on the internet at all. "Anonymous Coward" is not an absolute guarantee of anonymity you know, it's just to make it harder for insane slashdot stalkers to annoy you. I doubt if a terrorist published something serious here the security services would have too much trouble finding out who the AT was.

Yahoo Serious Festival (1)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557271)

I know those words, but that sign makes no sense.

Hospitality by Phorm... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557313)

I don't get it, is this some new British euphemism for an illicit sex act???

...No Doctor... all I had was a little "Hosptality by Phorm!" Well that explains it son, you're lucky it didn't fall off!"

Re:Hospitality by Phorm... (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557349)

You won't be laughing once the doctor prescribes your treatment [youtube.com] !

Re:Hospitality by Phorm... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39560997)

You're right, it's like "taking Tea with the Parson."

Non-native speaker here (2)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557535)

The article uses local expressions every time it mentions the *bad thing that happened*.

If I'm reading it correctly, it seems the problem is that they "took a policeman to lunch". Does this mean that they literally invited him to eat in a restaurant? Am I understanding it right?

If that's the case, why is it newsworthy? Is it not legal to have lunch with people? And even if it's not legal - How much does a single meal cost in the UK? Are we arguing about 30 pounds?

Re:Non-native speaker here (4, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557569)

There are rules about public servants accepting hospitality. In my department, we're not even allowed to let someone buy us a few sandwiches for a stand-up buffet.

It sounds rather strict, but it's proven that it skews your judgement - it's human nature to feel obligated to someone who does something nice for you, something that pharmaceutical reps understand only too well, with their habits of feeding doctors well and providing them with plenty of (branded) free geegaws like laser pointers, pens, etc.

Re:Non-native speaker here (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558499)

We also have the new Bribery Act 2010.

If someone buys me a sandwitch, it's no problem as long as I buy the next one.

Anything under a £20 gift is fine, but must be recorded.

But, it's a minefield. The safest bet is not to accept anything.

Re:Non-native speaker here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557643)

Yes it means he was literally taken to lunch, and it's a problem because police should not have that level of comfort with the people they're investigating. If they are it means their judgement is almost certainly going to be skewed in favour of the person taking them to lunch.

Few people would take a free lunch, and then turn round and say "Yeah, I'm still arresting you though by the way".

It's not just the police, and not just Phorm. In the past police have been given free tickets to Tom Cruise film premier's around the time Scientology has been seeking favour from the police in dealing with protests against them. Many politicians have similarly recently been caught out having lunch with people who they then go and legislate in favour of despite it being against the will of the democratic majority. In fact, just last week it emerged that for £250,000 you can have lunch with the British prime minister and have the opportunity to influence policy.

Re:Non-native speaker here (1)

Will_TA (549461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557703)

If a police officer is biased because of a lunch, then we're really fucked.

Re:Non-native speaker here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557811)

If they weren't biased because of a lunch, why would they be getting bought one?

Re:Non-native speaker here (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39561063)

If they weren't biased because of a lunch, why would they be getting bought one?

Don't forget it might also be a question of the lunch buyer acquiring a subtle blackmailing tool.

"Oh dear, wouldn't it be a pity if I reported our lunches to your superior officer, on the off chance you forgot to record them properly? How would that look? Do you want your kids to have a dad who was sacked for corruption? Probably best to play a bit nice with me then."

Re:Non-native speaker here (2)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558289)

If a police officer is biased because of a lunch, then we're really fucked.

If I were being investigated for some street scam defrauding tourist out of cash, could I offer to buy the guy investigating me a flight to a beach resort that I'm staying at and put him up in accommodation costing me a couple of £1,000 while I explain my side of the story?

That would clearly call the investigating officers integrity into question. Even if it didn't effect his decisions in any way, it just doesn't look good.

A meal in some 5-Star restaurants inside the City of London could easily come to a similar £ value, especially if you have more than 2 people at the table. So how is the meal any different to the 'investigation trip' when it comes to how it looks?

Is it simply about the cost of the hospitality? Would a meal that cost £100s rather than £1000s be acceptable? and if it was, could a gift of say jewelery valued at the same be given without the air of corruption?

It's far simpler to just not take anything from the people you have a formal relationship with, the alternative is a huge gray area waiting to be exploited.

I work for a medium size technology company, we aren't even allowed to accept a box of chocolates from our suppliers or customers, that in a relationship where both organizations standard to benefit from a cooperative relationship and not an adversarial relationship as in a company being investigated by the police.

Re:Non-native speaker here (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39561091)

Please write GBP or pounds or something, slashdot is apparetnly incapable of displaying the "£" sign correctly.

Re:Non-native speaker here (4, Informative)

oldredlion (1663421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558121)

If that's the case, why is it newsworthy?

From the article

According to Hanff, the officer taken out by Phorm in 2010 was overseeing the initial probe and was asked by the force to investigate the company after the CPS requested it take another look at the case.

How many times does a police officer, during an investigation, go out to dinner with the subject of that investigation?

I could be showing my naivete but I don't think it happens that often. Is it a common thing?

Re:Non-native speaker here (1)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558169)

Oh, that's a bit different. I thought that it was a random police officer.

What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39561499)

The police office and the lobbyist have to eat. So they just happened to decide to eat at about the same - quite a common thing. They ate at the same restaurant - many people eat at the same restaurant. Is it their fault that the maitre d' sat them at the same table? It's all just coincidence, could happen to anybody.

So who is telling porkies here then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39591573)

October 2009, Sergeant Mike Reed (City of London Police answered) in a freedom of information request. Asked to 'Disclose the date when that investigation was reopened' he said that it was 'On instruction of the CPS in October 2009' and he named officer in charge as 'D/S Murray'

Now we see a D/S Murray taken to lunch by Phorm and a police spokesman says "City of London Police were not involved in an investigation into BT Phorm and that the decision not to investigate was prompted by CPS advice"

Well you can't have it both ways. Think I believe Mike Reed over the PR person. With Phorm, anyone working in PR is basically going to lose their job if they are notr amazing at telling huge lies.

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