It’s the father of the web versus the man in charge of the UK’s digital future: Tim Berners-Lee has clashed in the battle of ideas with media minister Lord Carter over ad company Phorm, as the debate over behavioural targeting online intensifies. Speaking at a House of Lords discussion today organised by Lib Dem peer Baroness Miller and NoDPI.org, Berners-Lee said (via The Reg) that third parties shouldn’t know what people are clicking on, telling MPs: “I have come here to defend the internet as a medium.” He rejected Phorm’s claim that the data it collects is anonymised and not linked to users and said there would be “huge commercial pressure to release this data”.
But Lord Carter, in charge of the Digital Britain media policy review, is more interested in the revenue it might bring to digital businesses, including newspapers. Speaking yesterday at a separate meeting of MPs, he said (via Guardian.co.uk): “Phorm is another example of an interesting and innovative business which is trying to provide a service to users and advertisers in a new market.”
One man who wasn’t invited to speak at today’s event was Phorm CEO Kent Ertugrul, who had to wait until the speeches had ended before mounting a defence of his company. He came armed with a print-out of arch opponent The Register’s frontpage, showing a list of tracking cookies the tech news site gives to visitors — and then said that journalists would be out of a job without behavioural targeting. In a tense exchange, in which Ertugrul claimed Phorm was being misrepresented, the CEO was asked to sit down. He will have a chance to put his own point across at a Phorm-organised discussion meeting at LSE next month.