BT trialled 'potentially illegal' ad system claims digital rights lawyer

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phorm.jpgWe have covered Phorm previously – it’s a system of advertising based on web habits, currently causing a stir because of privacy issues. And even more so now, with the news that BT trialled a prototype version in 2006/2007 without informing its customers.

A spokesman for BT said the firm had no comment about the legality or illegality of the 2006 test, saying that it was “a small scale technical test of a prototype advertising platform”. It continued: “It is important for BT to ensure that before any new technologies are deployed, they are robust and fit for purpose. No personally identifiable information was processed, stored or disclosed during this test.”

That’s not the view of Nicholas Bohm, of the Foundation for Information Policy Research: “If the customers in 2006 and 2007 weren’t invited to do anything and it was completely surreptitious, and assuming that BT and Phorm trialled a version of what they are planning to launch later this year, then it was a massive scale illegal interception. They couldn’t at that stage have had any guidance from the Home Office, or had anything in writing, as nothing was issued until January this year.”

Phorm is a BT, Virgin and Talk Talk-supported service that will track your web behaviour over a period of time, serving ‘appropriate’ ads based on your interests. The companies behind it argue that it will serve better and more relevant ads for its users.

Phorm (via BBC)

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Dave Walker