- 28 Apr 09, 15:15 GMT
From the moment Phorm first hit the headlines in 2008, controversy has dogged the online advert targeting firm.
Its history as a technology company accused of peddling spyware immediately antagonised privacy campaigners.
And when it was revealed that Phorm and BT had carried out secret trials of the technology, which monitors users' web habits without their consent, battle lines were drawn.
At the heart of the argument is a debate over whether Phorm's technology breaks UK data interception laws. The European Commission has also waded into the issue, asking for better protection for consumers.
Phorm asserts that it is doing nothing wrong, that it sets higher standards of privacy and protection than rivals and that it has the support of bodies like the Information Commissioners' Office, the Home Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform.
However, anti-Phorm campaigners have gone to each of these bodies and in turn received word that they have not endorsed Phorm's technology.
Indeed, the Home Office says it has never advised Phorm that its technology does not break UK law.
Yet e-mails between the Home Office and Phorm released under Freedom of Information appear to show the Home Office doing precisely that, and also asking Phorm for comments and changes to a document it was drawing up in order to ascertain the company's legal status.
At one point, a Home Office official asks whether Phorm and its clients will be "comforted" by the document.
Of course, the Home Office will regularly consult with private enterprise when it draws up informal guidance, especially around new technologies.
Lord West of Spithead, the government's Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, explained to the House of Lords last year why the government had met with Phorm:
"This was an informal meeting to improve officials' understanding of the ways in which targeted online advertising could be undertaken. There was no agenda and no minutes were taken."
He added: "It would not be appropriate to provide details of that communication to a legal adviser in Phorm as we believe it is subject to legal privilege."
But anti-Phorm campaigners are questioning why the Home Office and Phorm were exchanging the document in question.
Phorm believes it is being unfairly singled out: it also believes it is the victim of an orchestrated "smear" campaign:
"Over the last year Phorm has been the subject of a smear campaign orchestrated by a small but dedicated band of online 'privacy pirates' who appear very determined to harm our company."
It has set up a website to counter these smears, called Stop Phoul Play.
The site also hints that this campaign may be the work of Phorm's competitors:
"Their energetic blogging and letter-writing campaigns, targeted at journalists, MPs, EU officials and regulators, distort the truth and misrepresent Phorm's technology.
"We have decided to expose the smears and set out the true story, so that you can judge the facts for yourself."
The company has also accused one of the leading campaigners of being a "serial agitator".
This is a battle with no sign of a ceasefire, with both sides settling down to a war of attrition, and with governments, both in the UK and the EU, drawn into the crossfire.
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