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Computer Security Expert Slams Phorm as Illegal

Posted: 05th Apr, 2008 By: MarkJ
Dr Richard Clayton, a computer security expert from the University of Cambridge, has attacked Phorm's controversial online advertising system by proclaiming it to be "illegal". The comments follow Clayton's technical analysis, where he spent several hours at Phorm examining how it would work.

Clayton concludes that Phorm, which would work with your ISP to monitor the websites you visit and produce targeted advertising campaigns based on that data, performs an act of illegal interception under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (s1):

"Phorm argue, with some justification, that their system does not permit them to identify individuals and that they meet and exceed all necessary Data Protection regulations — producing a system that is superior to other advertising platforms that profile Internet users.

Mayhap, but this is to mix up data protection and privacy. The latter to me includes the important notion that other people, even people I’ll never meet and who will never meet me, don’t get to know what I do, they don’t get to learn what I’m interested in, and they don’t get to assume that targeting their advertisements will be welcomed.

Phorm says that of course I can opt out — and I will — but just because nothing bad happens to me doesn’t mean that deploying the system is acceptable.
"

Clayton is only the latest of several experts and groups to have issued concerned reports about Phorm's system, which we fear is not being taken seriously enough by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Meanwhile Clayton has published his Technical Report (PDF) on the subject, while further personal comments can also be viewed in His Blog. Readers wanting to know more should check our Phorm Related News History and Mel has already started a forum topic on this news HERE.
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