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EU Investigates Phorm's UK ISP Advertising System 90

MJackson writes "The European Commission has opened an infringement proceeding against the UK after a series of complaints by Internet users, and extensive communication with UK authorities, about the use of Phorm's behavioural advertising system, which uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology, by internet service providers. Phorm works with UK ISPs to monitor what websites you visit for use in targeted advertising campaigns, though its methods have raised more than a few fears about invasions of privacy. Similar services in the USA have caused an equal level of controversy."
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EU Investigates Phorm's UK ISP Advertising System

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  • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oobayly ( 1056050 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @11:33AM (#27571227)

    Ah, the most common argument for Phorm.
    Difference is that you can chose not to use Google. If your ISP decides to do this you'll be opted in by default, and every time you delete your cookies, you'll be opted in again. We're not even sure that by opting out makes your traffic bypass Phorm's servers.

    What's even worse is that the tax payer will pay the fine, not BT & Phorm. As usual the Criminal Protection Service, ahem Crown Prosecution Service has fucked the general public in favour of keeping Ministers friends on-side.

    Sad this is that Brussels is better at looking out for us than Westminster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @11:39AM (#27571341)

    Don't get me wrong, I am completely against Phorm's practices. But it seems like it's completely ok for the government and the EU to question companies and individuals about this kind of practice. But when it comes to individuals asking the government about wiretapping etc. it's a completely different thing?
    I'm sorry, I know the government is just trying to protect our kids from those drug-dealing maffia-involved sexual predator terrorists.

  • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MindKata ( 957167 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @11:45AM (#27571445) Journal
    "Yes it's very similar to what Google does."

    Businesses (like Google and Phorm) are mercilessly exploiting personal data on us all (for their own gain) to the point now its turning into a feeding frenzy and the law isn't changing fast enough to keep up and close down these relentless power grabs. (Also it is about power, as monitoring and profiling like this is a very powerful way to abuse so much information on so many people. Thats why governments also want to be part of this feeding frenzy for personal data, as they also gain by exploiting data on people for their own gain. Its also why they are very reluctant to make laws to ban such merciless exploitation. It takes time to force governments to listen to their people. In the mean time, businesses are showing they have utter contempt for peoples personal data.
  • by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @11:48AM (#27571501)

    Allowing Phorm to do their thing has awful consequences. We're already in the process of having every phone call, text and email logged in a massive "just looking for terrorists, nothing to worry about" database.

    Once a private company is able to execute DPI without your explicit consent, purely for profit, what's to stop the government from doing the same "for everyone's protection"? Surely that's a more worthy abuse of your right to privacy...?

    Slippery slope? We're about to hit bottom, ladies & gentlemen.

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @12:00PM (#27571723) Homepage

    The big difference between Phorm and Google is Google has consent of the WEB SITES.

    Neither really have "user" consent, but Google will only track you on pages which are either hosted by Google itself or derive content from Google (adwords, analytics), which specifically excludes porn etc.

    Thus although both have the same objective, they have vastly different mechanisms and Google does have one-party consent, vs Phorm's no-party consent.

  • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @01:51PM (#27573653) Homepage Journal

    Someone should go to jail for this, but no-one will.

    Someone should go to jail over the guy being shoved, beaten and eventually dying near the G20 protests, but no-one will.

    Someone should go to jail over the Jean Charles De Menezes murder, but no-one will.

    Someone should go to jail over the various rail crashes due to poor maintenance or negligence, but no-one will.

    Someone should go to jail over the war started on the basis of a dossier compiled from plagiarised articles on the internet, but no-one will.

    The list goes on, but somehow no-one in a position of responsibility is ever responsible.

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @03:19PM (#27575201) Journal

    AFAIK from previous statements, it doesn't use a local browser cookie for tracking (too easy to mess with), only for opt-out - I believe it's based upon IP/mac address outbound; if you're all behind a single NAT router, it'll combine you all together.

    Firstly, we should all remember that what is known about Phorm comes from Phorme's employees and they have not been models of accuracy and full disclosure.

    But the use described opt-out mechanism implies that people will have to keep opting out. IP addresses: what happens when your IP address changes? You have to opt out again? MAC addresses? Not seen past the first router. Why use a cookie? Cookies can't be used for a total opt-out, since they require the tracking mechanism to interact with the PC -- in other words, the web traffic has to be redirected to Phorm so that Phorm can check the cookie.

    My guess is that, even with an opt-out mechanism, Phorm will make it sufficiently intrusive to opt-out so that people will eventually tire of opting out and will find themselves opted-in.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson