Phorm From British Telecom

If you have BT Broadband its likely that when you log on to the internet tomorrow you will receive an invite to take part in Phorm’s advertising system ‘webwise’. Actually in all likelyhood if you have had BT Broadband since late 2006 you probably have taken part but you just didn’t know about it. This is when their secret trials took place.

What is Phorm I hear you ask? Well this is a system being brought online by BT to monitor which sites you visit. It logs the URL, any search terms entered into a search engine, and other data from the page, in order to categorise it. Whenever you visit a site which is is sourced from the Open Internet Exchange set up by Phorm, you will receive targeted advertisements based upon your browsing habits.

BT have stressed that it is an invitation that can be turned down. All you have to do is“set all your browsers to block cookies from the domain webwise.net”. Now I like to think of myself as pretty tech savvy and I don’t think I would have much trouble completing this pretty simple procedure. However there are an awful lot of people (especially the poor unfortunates who have BT Broadband) who do not. Remember in the UK although a large percentage of the population is hooked up to broadband, alot of those people have gone with the easiest option, which is BT. In March 2008 BT reported that it had 12.7 million wholesale broadband connections.

There has been alot of chatter over the net regarding this new ‘spyware’, that is whether or not this can be classified as spyware. The Information Commissioner’s Office said that the service did not infringe an ISP customer’s privacy, because it did not collect information that would allow them to be identified. The system will also give users the opportunity to opt out of individual tracking, meaning that it does not breach the principles of the Data Protection Act, the commissioner’s office said.

It is predicted that BT’s share from the online advertising could be as much as £85 million a year. Nice work if you can get it.

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