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BCS Urges Opt-In For Phorm to Build Trust

Posted: 29th Apr, 2008 By: MarkJ
The British Computer Society (BCS) is urging Phorm, and other profile-based Internet advertising systems, to adopt an 'opt-in' approach to help build consumer trust. David Clarke, BCS chief executive, said:

“For a long-term and beneficial model, it is vital that the public trust advertisers and their ISPs to protect them and their privacy. Part of gaining that trust has to be using good practice on consent, and that means asking people to opt in to use the system.”

The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) and the Open Rights Group, a campaigning organisation that raises awareness of digital rights and civil liberties issues, has produced an analysis of Phorm’s system, highlighting potential privacy issues.

Working with Simon Davies of privacy consultancy 80/20 Thinking, Phorm has also engaged in open public debate on the implications of their system — a move praised by the BCS:

“Phorm’s willingness to engage in open public debate on the impacts of their system is to be commended”, continues David Clarke. “Rather than retreating to the bunker, Phorm has faced their critics, and this has helped focus on the real issues rather than the imagined ones. This is an approach we would like to see companies take more regularly.”

In conclusion, David Clarke added, “BCS members involved in work of this kind should think very carefully about the implications of these systems and the BCS professional code of conduct they have agreed to. Failure to abide by that code could lead to expulsion. Members should always be mindful of current good practice such as opt-in, and their duty to the public, as they implement systems like this.”

Meanwhile the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) recently warned UK ISPs that they must present Phorm to users via an opt-in (choice) basis, as opposed to forcing their acceptance by default.
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