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UPDATED: Tim Berners-Lee Joins Camp of Phorm Criticism

Posted: 17th Mar, 2008 By: MarkJ
The creator of the World Wide Web (WWW), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has joined the growing chorus of criticism being levelled at Phorms controversial data pimping system. Lee, like many others, has pledged to change ISP if his provider were ever to introduce such a system:

"I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they've figured I'm looking at those books," he said.

Sir Tim said his data and web history belonged to him. "It's mine - you can't have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I'm getting in return."

"I myself feel that it is very important that my ISP supplies internet to my house like the water company supplies water to my house. It supplies connectivity with no strings attached. My ISP doesn't control which websites I go to, it doesn't monitor which websites I go to."

Typically Phorm has been keen to stress that the data would be collected anonymously and even provide security benefits to help identify potential phishing sites. Naturally many consumers remain unconvinced by this and continue to echo concerns about how the information is tracked, handled, used and ultimately whether or not they even have a choice in the matter.

Sir Tim did appear more accepting of an 'opt-in' system though, where customers would be excluded unless they made a conscious decision to join up. TalkTalk has already said that it plans to adopt such a method, though BT and Virgin Media continue to remain undecided. More @ BBC News Online.

UPDATE (13:10):
Phorm has since issued the following statement in response to Sir Tim's remarks:

"We believe that it is wrong to store Internet users' personal data. Our technology is a real turning point in the protection of privacy online - it does not store personally identifiable information, does not store IP addresss and nor does it store browsing histories.

By contrast, ad targeting from other major Internet companies means that potentially identifiable personal data is stored for over 12 months before it is even anonymised. Also, because these companies reach nearly all UK Internet users, consumers effectively have no real choice about being targeted in this way. With the Phorm technology, users can choose - they can opt out or in at any time; and again, no personal data is stored .

We look forward to speaking to Tim Berners Lee to explain how our technology is a ground breaking advance in delivering targeted ads while protecting privacy online and consumer choice, as we have with other experts.
"
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