Would You Fire Your ISP Over Privacy?

OK, so it’s no secret that a desire for free services on the part of consumers coupled with the desire of service providers to make a buck has spawned ever more intrusive ad models (Hello, Beacon!) But while hyper-targeted ads and behavioral advertising raise eyebrows, so far they’ve largely failed to raise consumers’ ire. Target that data from deep within an ISP, however, and people start to get worried.

It’s already led to problems in the UK. Privacy rights organizations have recently started to express concerns over the use of a service by ISPs such as BT and Virgin Media from a startup called Phorm. The company places its servers inside a telco’s network to check out the data moving through the ISP’s pipes. Phorm assures users that their data remains anonymous, and that they can choose to opt out of the program, but so far, people aren’t impressed.

Phorm is also hoping to expand into the U.S. It already has competition, from NebuAd, which is putting its deep-packet-inspection equipment inside ISPs to serve targeted ads. The company got some unwanted attention last June after Redmoon, a Texas ISP, started using the service to deliver ads on top of existing sites. If your ISP started monitoring your data so it could serve up targeted ads, would you stay with them, or would you switch? Going mobile may not help. Remember that just last week, Qualcomm agreed to pay some $32 million mobile ad insertion company Xiam.