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Phorm Interview & Related News Bites
By: MarkJ - 07 March, 2008 (1:26 PM)

The Register has managed to do an interesting interview (here) with Phorm's CEO Kent Ertegrul. Naturally it concerns the controversy surrounding Phorm's relationship with several UK ISPs, which anonymously tracks the websites you visit to help develop targeted advertising campaigns:

Were you working with BT last summer when Register readers noticed suspicious redirects to sysip.net?

KE: We've been working with BT for quite some time. The announcement wasn't the product of a couple of weeks' discussions.

The BT engineers evaluated our system, but I can't comment on the exact nature of any evaluation that they did.

I understand that BT has said it's looking into exactly what happened when people were seeing sysip.net [see here for the original story] and I think that what you're going to find is that it will respond shortly but we have to defer to them.

[Hello BT press office. You have our number. It's good to talk.]

Ok, but one thing that has come across from our readers is that people think the way it's being sold to them as ISP customers is slightly underhand in that they're being told it's an anti-phishing technology.

KE: It's not being sold to anybody. All we've said is "this is what we're doing". There's nothing underhanded about that at all. very often there's quite a big difference between what things appear to be and what they actually are.

Putting aside the privacy stuff, how well do you think the ISPs have handled this announcement? Our readers have been getting some very confused responses from customer services.

KE: I think you're going to see them handle it very differently when they actually deploy. We've come out with this and it's caused controversy, but if we hadn't said anything, everyone would have said "wooo, secret plot", but the ISPs are the ultimate keeper of the relationship with their customer. They'd be stupid to mishandle that relationship.

When they actually deploy they'll message their customers in many different ways. When it launches the first thing you'll see is a browser window telling you it's switched on.

Meanwhile an article on BBC News Online (here) has comments from two "respected privacy campaigners" that praise Phorms user protection measures:

Campaigner Simon Davies said: "We were impressed with the effort that had been put into minimising the collection of personal information."

Mr Davies and Gus Hosein were invited by Phorm to assess its privacy protection measures. The two work with campaign group Privacy International but their work for Phorm was done as part of a new privacy start-up, 80/20 Thinking Ltd.

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