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TalkTalk and Virgin Media still evaluating Phorm

Service providers TalkTalk and Virgin Media are continuing to evaluate Phorm's ad-serving technology. The companies have been reviewing the technology for approximately 18 months.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

Service providers TalkTalk and Virgin Media are continuing to evaluate Phorm's ad-serving technology. The companies have been reviewing the technology for approximately 18 months.

Following BT's announcement on Monday that it has put any plans to implement Phorm's Webwise technology on hold, TalkTalk told ZDNet UK that BT's decision would not affect its evaluation or plans.

"We continue to have an interest," said a TalkTalk spokesperson. "We haven't tested the systems on our network. Should we introduce [Phorm] it would be at our customer's discretion. We are aware of BT's decision but it hasn't affected our plans at all."

Virgin Media also told ZDNet UK that it is still evaluating the technology, which has drawn criticism from BT customers and privacy campaigners for its use of deep packet inspection.

"Over the last 18 months, Virgin Media has conducted a comprehensive technical and legal assessment of Phorm's technology and consumers' attitudes towards interest-based advertising," said a Virgin Media statement. "This review has not involved the deployment of Phorm technology across our network.

We continue to believe interest-based advertising has potentially important benefits for consumers, internet service providers and website owners. However, given the fast moving nature of the sector, Virgin Media is reviewing potential opportunities with suppliers including Phorm prior to making any commitment to launch any of these technologies.

We recognise some consumers have significant concerns about the potential implications of interest-based advertising for their privacy. Virgin Media is committed to ensuring that any future deployment complies not only with the relevant legal requirements but - as an absolute minimum - the best practice guidelines contained in the Internet Advertising Bureau's recently published code of practice.

Virgin Media will communicate openly and transparently with consumers before and after any future deployment of interest-based advertising technologies across its network."

Personally, I think ISPs are in a bit of a bind over technologies like Phorm. On the one hand, they see the potential revenues from selling targeted advertising. On the other hand, customers could easily get spooked if they think their internet communications are being spied on. Add in potential legal issues surrounding behavioural ad-serving technology, especially with the EC taking legal action against the UK government for failing to act over BT trials of the tech in 2006 and 2007, and you have a whole can of worms.

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