It won't be long before British Internet users see targeted advertising based on their usage patterns. British Telecom is about to test software by Phorm, which collects URLs visited, search terms entered, and other data from visited websites. Phorm then categorizes the content and serves up advertising based on your Web travels.
BT is rolling out a test to 10,000 users, The Times of London reports, after which, according to a statement:
Following successful completion of this trial and an appropriate period of analysis and planning, it is currently expected that Phorm’s platform will be rolled out across BT’s network.
As to privacy concerns, says BT:
BT Webwise won't collect any of your personal information, or keep IP addresses, website addresses, keywords or search terms. BT Webwise simply analyses web-pages that you visit and terms you search for to match them against a pre-defined category or area of interest (e.g., 'travel' or 'finance'). These categories are then associated with a cookie stored on your browser that has a unique randomly-generated number on it. BT Webwise uses this information to ensure that the advertising you see on participating websites is more likely to be relevant to your areas of interest. BT Webwise does not store any other information about you.
But due to an agreement with the British government, the program is now opt-in. According to PC Pro, a Cable Forum survey found that only 5 percent of users would choose to opt-in to have their traffic monitored.
Meanwhile, the London Police have dropped investigations into the legality of the trial, PC Pro reports. Police had questioned BT executives as to violations of UK laws.
Opt-in isn't good enough for groups like Bad Phorm, which call on ISPs to "withdraw from deep packet inspection systems (like Phorm) entirely. It is clearly simply impossible for ISPs to overcome the privacy, security, legal, copyright, and technical concerns," they say.