Summary:

Ten online advertising companies, including Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Phorm, have signed up to a new UK code of practice on behavioural target…

Ten online advertising companies, including Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Phorm, have signed up to a new UK code of practice on behavioural targeting produced by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). The umbrella body now looks to be representing the companies against growing consumer concern.

The so-called Good Practice Principles compel the operators to tell users when data is being collected, give users the opportunity to either switch off collection or opt in and tell users how their data will be used. The IAB also launched a website, YourOnlineChoices.co.uk (note the reinforcement of “choice”) to explain the practice. Signatories to the code are AOL (NYSE: TWX), its Platform A ad unit, AudienceScience, Google, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), NebuAd, Phorm, Specific Media, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Wunderloop.

It comes as Phorm itself said it will hold a “town hall meeting” at the London School of Economics on April 7. Its second such open event will see CEO Kent Ertugrul and directors including Norman Lamont pitch how they can “safeguard the future of the press”; they will also field questions.

Though behavioural targeting had already practised by many operators, the on-ISP technique Phorm is pushing has drawn some concern, though in part because Phorm previously built software classified once classified as spyware. The UK government has effectively deemed Phorm legal, however. Phorm says BT (NYSE: BT) will implement its technology as Webwise this year; Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) and TalkTalk trials are yet to begin and Phorm says it has been speaking with ISPs elsewhere in the world.

Also today, the IAB published survey research indicating 85 percent of 2,000 consumers polled last month would rather free, ad-supported content than subscription payments. It also said half of users would prefer relevant ads, while only nine percent would not. These figures may play in to the hands of the advertising lobby itself, but consumer mag Which? last week published a survey that said 84 percent of consumers do not want their browsing habits tracked. Which? withdrew the research after Phorm threatened legal action. Release.

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