Have You Called an Internet Advertising Phoul on Phorm?

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I don’t mind advertisers, so long as they are advertising something I would care about. I notice Marketing campaigns all the time. Overall, they don’t annoy me. I know people treat advertising differently than they treat other things in life. It’s a necessary evil. People are usually happy when they get a good deal. That’s why I have been actively posting coupons for awhile now, and have even set up a Coupon Search Engine for all of you to use.

Some people don’t like advertising at all, due to the way it’s being done. SupaFly wrote to me the other day to talk to me about Phorm. According to him, the three main ISPs in England have partnered with Phorm. Phorm is a type of advertiser that looks at what you are doing online, and will then send you targeted ads. There has been a lot of public outcry about this, surrounding privacy concerns.

I don’t know if this is necessarily invading privacy, any more than Gmail’s advertising is. It’s likely a benign form of watching patterns, and not targeting you specifically. Think of it as targeting your generic behaviors. I don’t agree that this is really the way to go. If the website you’re visiting isn’t selling or showing ads… then there shouldn’t be any embedded into it by a third party.

It’s a fine line when you’re talking about advertisements, specifically related to the Internet. If the ISP itself is doing this… I don’t think that’s quite right. All the ISP should be doing is providing you access to Websites, who could choose or not to provide ads. If people are paying to access the Internet, and ads are getting served against them and their privacy is being invaded… it’s just not cool.

I really wanted to throw this out to everyone in England who has to deal with this. Give me your thoughts… give me the skinny and the 411. How do you feel about this? Now that Phorm has been around for awhile, do you just deal with it or are you still fighting against it?


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9 thoughts on “Have You Called an Internet Advertising Phoul on Phorm?”

  1. I think that Supafly has got the wrong end of the stick as many nervous brits have- Phorm’s technology, as you rightly pointed out is no worse (arguably considerably better) than Googles system and relevant advertising may well change peoples attitude towards it- but their system doesn’t replace ads or force ads onto sites that do not want them- Supafly needs to do proper research rather listening to the ‘tinfoil hat brigade’- We hope to partner with them when they launch to monetise and pay for the upkeep of our site and relevant advertising pays considerably more for our page space- and the system requires us to put ‘phorm tags’ on our page like any other advertising system. This is good for website owners anywhere and IMHO better than Google as they don’t store your info for 18 months at a time and they give a cut to the beleaguered ISPs to allow them to improve the speed of my sluggish connection!

  2. I haven’t had any experience dealing with Phorm, since I’m here in Michigan, but I wanted to share my thoughts about advertising.

    I don’t mind it, but one of the biggest things that annoys me is when there are so many that it slows down the page. I don’t have a particularly fast computer, but it works well enough, so it bugs me when I visit a page that has 8 billion different FLASH ads going at the same time.

    Another thing is a site like Free Online Games. I can understand why they need the ads, they have “free” in their name! But why do they put flash ads on the same page as a flash game? It just makes no sense, and slows everything way down. I’m going to stop now.

  3. I actually like advertisement, as long as it’s not annoying pop-ups on internet, and way long commercials on tv.
    I personally have ads on my blog, I think it’s a good thing for everyone.

  4. the information is out there Robin and other readers, if you want to read it, basicly Phorm/Webwise is using Deep Packet Inspection/Interception Hardwre kit that sits directly on the other side of your ISP payed for Broadband connection, (as does NebuAd in the US etc).

    this special DPI kit has every single bit of your PCs web comunication (if your browser can see it, so can the Phorm interception for profit kit) sent through it, every single web page even password protected HTTP pages you request/click and enter are then also fully scaned/collected into their kits ram, processed.

    and under UK and EU law (and US law i assume), an unlawful derivative work is made without consent of the website content owner, or the ISP end user (should they refuse to take part in any trials, their datastream is still collected.and processed at the DPI, but dont then get sent and see the ad’s onscreen)for commercial profit.

    apparently these are some of the laws broken by not getting Express/Explicit, and informed consent of both partys (end user AND the website content owners)or paying the profits of this unlawful derivative work to the owners of the content.

    Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

    Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

    Computer Misuse Act 1990

    Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977

    Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 (see derivative works)

    Data Protection Act 1998 (IP addresses are legally defined as personally identifiable data)

    this basic laymans copyright might be helpful to outlines the problems BT have placed themselves in during the prior trials without getting consent.

    and dont forget may websites already have explicit terms against commercial use of the sites webpage content in their notices (including this very site infact

    just like so many boom and bust idea’s before it, this appears to be fools gold while its wiretapping for profit without full and informed consent from both partys is missing, the web content owners will have a field day with it though in court once this practice becomes widely known

    you might find this infomation link interesting too


  5. I’m a little iffy with these evasive ads. Google seems like it uses an ad program that picks up the topic on the page that you are looking at. That one doesn’t totally bug me as long as it’s not saving any information on either my end, or Google’s. But, I have been seeing Myspace getting a little too personal as they are posting ads that are aimed towards what is in my profile onto my personal home page. That to me, is getting a little too close and personal for my taste (even if Myspace is free).

  6. Advertising doesnt bother me that much. The only time that it does bother me is if it is not on a subject that appeals to my interest, and as long as it is not excessive. The pop up ads do anger me and i close them with out looking at what they are for.

  7. We are going to have to get used to the fact that as time goes by we are going to see more and more annoying advertising, as we evolve into more technology the more companies are going to us them to advertise the product.

  8. There’s a lynch mob mentality to the anti-Phorm campaign in the UK. The anti-Phorm guys roll out a long list of laws that apparently the technology breaks (see one of the comments above), but the UK government has clearly signalled that it can be operated legally. Most importantly it will be opt-in – if you opt-in then your web browsing will be profiled and if you visit a web site that has partnered with Phorm, then you’ll see a relevant ad. If you don’t opt-in then when you visit a web site that has partnered with Phorm, you’ll see the default ad.

    Chris, you did get it slightly wrong in your vid, Phorm don’t put ads onto sites that haven’t partnered with them.

    But what’s important is that advertising pays for our media – like it or not. I for one, would prefer an ad targeted at me, than a generic ad. But only if my privacy is protected, and having spent a lot of time studying the Phorm technology, I believe it does protect privacy, particularly when compared to how a company like Google feels free to build huge data mines containing all my searches.

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