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Security Firm Trend Micro Could Label Phorm Adware
By: MarkJ - 13 March, 2008 (1:30 PM)

Popular Internet security giants Trend Micro have landed a serious blow to the Phorm system, which works in conjunction with an ISP to anonymously track the websites you visit and thus develop better targeted advertising campaigns.

Trend Micro has warned that the system is causing it some concerns and may result in the company labelling Phorm as adware:

"The nature of Phorm's monitoring of all user web activity is certainly of some concern, and there is a very high chance that Trend Micro would add detection for the tracking cookies as adware in order to protect customers.

Obviously, as with other adware/spyware Trend Micro would need to constantly monitor things like... how aware users are that they are being tracked and whether the user has the ability to completely opt out of the service.

Naturally Phorm itself rejects Trend Micro's criticism and hopes to open a dialogue with the security firm. Meanwhile another security firm, PC Tools, has echoed similar concerns:

"If our research confirms that Phorm places an opt-out cookie on the desktop PC, we will evaluate if it safe to remove it without re-opting the customer back into the Phorm tracking mechanisms. If the cookie cannot simply be removed but we can find a reliable method to detect the Phorm service, and the Phorm service was evaluated and identified using our threat matrix, we will then endeavour to alert our customers of its existence.

Naturally we encourage all companies involved in handling, monitoring or storing personal information, such as web-surfing behaviour, to prominently disclose whether there is information being supplied or used by a third-party. Ideally any service with privacy implications should require users to consciously opt-in after they know all the facts.

In related news, The Register reports that Virgin Media's boss, Neil Berkett, is "reviewing" whether or not to follow TalkTalk's example (news) by making Phorm opt-in only. This would prevent customers being included by default at launch. However, customers are treating Berketts comment with scepticism as the ISP has so far chosen to remain far too vague and quite about the matter.

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