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On Phorm

Posted by putsimply on 12th March 2009

Yesterday Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the internet, launched a pretty scathing attack on Phorm. He accused Phorm of ‘snooping’ on ISP users and collecting private information.

Sir Tim said that “To allow someone to snoop on your internet traffic is to allow them to put a television camera in your room, except it will tell them a whole lot more about you than the television camera”.

This is a particularly interesting debate that has been going on ever since Phorm and BT’s ‘secret’ trials back in 2006. The internet is not a private place, in fact it’s remarkably easy to find out contact details for almost anyone – if you know where to look. Therefore, is it reasonable to argue that your browsing habits are private and should not be monitored, but at the same time uploading hundreds of photos and personal details to your online profile page that anyone can access?

There does need to be a line drawn between the behavioral advertising that is already all over sites such as Amazon and Facebook, and targeted advertising based on ISP habits. Having adverts appear for wedding photographers when you update your status to ‘engaged’ is pretty sensible. In the same way that many online shopping sites recommend other items based on your recent purchases. The concept of advertising appropriate to your interests is a good idea, and would be far more effective than the random ads that appear now. But do I want my ISP tracking everything I do online? Not really.