While NebuAd Retreats, Phorm and BT Plow Ahead

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NebuAd has lost its CEO
facing Congressional scrutiny get out of the business of selling its system to ISPs plans to we’d predicted

The former adware company said this morning that its deal with BT is going ahead, while its deals with Virgin Media and TalkTalk will proceed later. From its filing with the AIM market on the London Stock Exchange:

Since that time, the Company has been working closely with BT to prepare its network for a trial. Whilst this has taken longer than originally anticipated, significant and accelerating progress has been made. The trial will commence as soon as these preparations are complete.

In addition, Phorm expects that Virgin Media and TalkTalk will commence consumer trials in due course. Following successful completion of these trials and an appropriate planning period, it is currently expected that Phorm’s platform will be rolled out across these networks.

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the firm’s success (and looks a lot like NebuAd’s statements when Congress initially started sniffing around its deals), but spokeswoman Stephanie Willerton said Phorm still plans to pursue ISP customers both in the UK and in the U.S. It has a New York office, which it opened earlier this year with an eye to North American expansion plans. Willerton also said the company has adapted its technology to address privacy fears, referring me to the opt-in page on the Phorm web site to learn more.

But the proposed opt-in plan suffers from some of the same problem’s NebuAd’s system did — namely that you opt out once on a machine, that the opt-out is only targeted at the machine, not the person. If I visit other computers that have been opted in, I’m still being tracked. Willerton didn’t dispute this but said that once someone opts out, Phorm doesn’t track anything further.

Despite the British government’s assurances of legality, the European Union hasn’t been as impressed and is asking its own questions as to how legal the Phorm web tracking is. Additionally, since Phorm still plans to market its services in the U.S. (currently is says it has no U.S. customers), Congress may have to be appeased as well. Meanwhile, BT customers should prepare for more scrutiny on their surfing habits, especially once “significant and accelerating progress has been made.”

16 Comments

Jonah

For DPI also read it as “Deep Packet Injection”, the very seedy side of this system any code or image can be changed or your Browser redirected to totally the Wrong Web Address.

This is a cocktail for anarchy on the WWW, just because the technology is possible it does not mean it should ever be used when confronted with the complications & massive personal & data protection issues it will cause!

Why is the nuclear industry subject to such strong regulations, this could have the same sort of Global Implications when it comes to Privacy & Data Protection!

fred

Its spyware. It tracks and reads every page you visit. Opt out / in is meaningless, all that happens is you don’t get targetted ads, the spying on your connection continues.
Hopefully any trial will also give the BT cancellation line a good stress test.

Simon Franklin

The tracking Google and Revenue science does is easy to avoid. Having all you network traffic intercepted by deep packet inspection if you are opted in OR OUT is not.

peter

no different than what google does or any ad network like revenue science. only difference here is ISP’s looking to do it at the network level, today’s behavioral ad networks do it at the site level. you can be sure google’s new chrome definitely tracks at the browser level, though under the guise of “improving web surfing experience.”

Benjamin Wright

Whether they are Opt-out or Opt-in, privacy policies are governed in good part by contract law. Contract law is a two-way street. Just as advertising networks can communicate to visitors/customers what they assert to be the legal terms, customers can communicate back!

In principle, contract law does not favor either businesses or customers/users. As the future of privacy law unfolds, individuals may be able to use contract law to assert their legal terms on other parties, such as search engines or advertisers. Why shouldn’t a consumer be able to broadcast what she expects to be the legal terms under which she does business? –Ben http://hack-igations.blogspot.com/2008/05/google-privacy-policy-terms-of-service.html

My ideas are not legal advice for any particular situation; they are just ideas for public discussion.

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