Phorm, the controversial startup that delivers targeted ads based on a person’s web surfing, has signed deals with five Internet Service Providers in Brazil. After customer and regulatory outrage in the UK over the idea that ISPs would monitor a person’s web surfing habits through deep packet inspection in order to deliver advertising (and especially that Phorm and BT would trial this intrusive technology without telling subscribers), Phorm went quiet.
Well, apparently it went to South America and has signed up Estadão, iG, Oi, Terra and UOL — all Brazilian ISPs. It also said in a release today that it’s pre-booked $5.6 million in revenue over an unspecified time frame. However, I wonder if the landscape regarding both web privacy and deep packet inspection has shifted since 2008, when much of the controversy erupted over Phorm in the UK and a similar startup known as NebuAd here in the U.S..
ISPs are using deep packet inspection technologies already, and are poised to use them more in both wireless and wireline networks for usage-based pricing (GigaOM Pro sub req’d), possibly based on the type of applications people are using. At the same time, people are sharing ever more information via services like Foursquare or even Twitter, information that can be mined for advertising.
I still find the idea of my ISP knowing which web sites I’m visiting creepy, although Google and many other targeted advertising shops clearly know, judging by the Tea children’s clothing ads I see on Tom’s Hardware and Slashdot (I’m guessing most of you don’t see those). Plus, as ISPs are threatened with net neutrality and dumb pipe status, expect them to implement more of these revenue-generating schemes, and justify them by bemoaning the loss of their profits thanks to government regulation.