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Legality Concerns Could Hinder Phorm's ISP Advertising Deal

Posted: 04th Mar, 2008 By: MarkJ
Professor Peter Sommer, author of 'The Hacker's Handbook' (1980's) and a frequent expert witness in data crime cases, warns that Phorm’s plan to track the website browsing activity of UK ISP subscribers (original news) could conflict with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA):

"Whatever the parties involved say, this appears to be an interception under RIPA. The real issue will be about how consent is obtained."

Phorm's system works by reading the contents of web pages you visit to build up a profile of your interests on your computer. It then uses this information to target you with appropriate categories of advertising when you later visit a website that is a member of the Open Internet Exchange (OIX), its publisher and advertiser network.

RIPA goes on to allow for interception without a warrant - i.e. by Phorm and your ISP rather than law enforcement agencies - "if the communication is one sent by, or intended for, a person who has consented to the interception". The full text of the Act is available here.

BT, which is one of the ISPs involved with initial trials alongside Virgin Media and TalkTalk, claims that "once customers are aware of the benefits of [PHORM], they are overwhelmingly in favour of the free security features and more relevant advertising during web browsing." We say, show us to the OPT-OUT option. More @ The Register.
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