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BT Total Broadband Tests Phorm on 10,000 Customers

Posted: 06th Mar, 2008 By: MarkJ
BT has announced its intention to test the controversial Phorm system (news), which anonymously tracks the websites you visit to help develop targeted advertising campaigns, on 10,000 of its broadband customers. The trial will take place during the middle of this month and customers will be given the option to opt-in or out:

BT Statement: The trial invitation will be presented through a special web page that will appear when those customers start a web browsing session. At this point, those customers invited can choose to switch on BT Webwise, choose not to take part, or to find out more information.

The http://www.bt.com/webwise site also contains detailed information on the service and a one-click option to switch the service off, which can be activated at any point during the trial. The BT Privacy Policy and BT Total Broadband Service Terms will be amended accordingly.

The Register notes that BT's current policy states: "We do not use this [browsing] information to analyse your visits to any other websites", which will of course have to be amended. However, it's what happens when the system finally goes live that has most people concerned:

BT emphasises that the ad targeting can be switched off easily (it plans to opt-in BT Broadband users when the full system goes live in the fourth quarter of 2008). However, according to a spokesman for Phorm, the way the opt-out works means the contents of the websites you visit will still be mirrored to its system. Profiler hardware (see network diagrams here) will simply not categorise the pages or attempt to serve up target ads.

It will be interesting to see whether the continued interception of traffic, even after a customer has chosen to opt-out, contravenes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). BT doesn't think so.
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