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A Setback for ISP Web Tracking 32

angelheaded tips a Wired story about the resignation of Bob Dykes, CEO of net eavesdropping firm NebuAd. NebuAd has encountered financial troubles lately as the privacy controversy surrounding the company's tracking methods has driven communications companies away. Over in the UK, Phorm responded to the NebuAd news by affirming that it is making progress with its advertising methods. From The Register: "In response to the outcry over our revealing its two secret trials, BT said in April it would re-engineer the planned deployment so traffic to and from customers who do not want their web use profiled for marketing purposes would not come into contact with the Phorm system. The original blueprint meant that a opt-out cookie would tell the technology to simply ignore refuseniks' browsing as it passed through. It's thought the change has proved tricky. Phorm did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged technical problems, but [BT's chief press officer Adam Liversage] said: 'We have been working on some things with Phorm.'"
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A Setback for ISP Web Tracking

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2008 @12:23PM (#24901311)

    who is going to prison for tapping 18,000 people
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/05/bt_phorm_police_meeting/ [theregister.co.uk]

    this is not including the private actions they will be facing for copyright infrigement, insider trading, fraud

  • Technical analysis (Score:3, Informative)

    by labcake ( 1359025 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @01:45PM (#24902011)
    If you are interested in what phorm /webwise actually does here is a technical paper: Richard Claytons technical paper: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rnc1/080518-phorm.pdf [cam.ac.uk]
  • Re:A cookie? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @02:41PM (#24902581) Homepage

    Exactly. Am I supposed to white list every scumbag company that provides an "opt-out" cookie. That just doesn't make sense because the supply of scumbag companies is practically unlimited.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c4/Phorm_cookie_diagram.png [wikimedia.org]
    Just look at all the spoofing nonsense. That just adds points of failure.

    If you haven't switched away from your phorm infested ISP by now, then be sure to add both *phorm* AND *webwise.net* to your ad blocker.
    Remember, friends don't let friends use (AOL|talktalk|virgin.net|BT)

  • Re:Why not? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @05:16PM (#24904415)

    You don't need to - there are many websites which will automatically check to see if they are being visited by a Phorm server. If they are, then they place a warning message on the webpage you (or the Phorm server) have attempted to download.

  • Re:Why not? (Score:3, Informative)

    by sitarah ( 955787 ) on Saturday September 06, 2008 @09:12PM (#24906511) Homepage

    There's a very large US company called Hitwise [wikipedia.org] that does exactly that. They watch traffic that comes through ISPs and report on traffic, search terms, and competitor activity. It's all at an aggregate level, so there's no identifying information, and they use %-s of traffic rather than hard numbers, so that's why the ISPs don't view it as a privacy issue. Last I heard, they are audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers to make sure they're anonymizing correctly. The only difference between them and NebuAd is that they don't create ads, just sell information.

    It is the same service as Comscore and Compete provide, but without a 'panel'. The reason is that these panels (~1 mil people) know they're being watched and in fact signed up for it. In addition, Comscore can only extrapolate their behavior to the millions of internet users. With Hitwise, you on your ISP have no idea anyone is watching, so it is not biased, and there's a sample size of millions.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich