March 7, 2008

Behavior Monitoring Software Firm Vows to Protect Privacy

U.S. digital technology firm Phorm is set to release their controversial online advertising campaign that attempts to present users in the U.K. with relevant ads based on their surfing habits.

Internet service providers BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, along with advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad networks, work with Phorm to release Webwise in order "to make online advertising more relevant, rewarding and valuable," according to the company.

Webwise seeks to provide a comprehensive system to warn clients of potentially dangerous "phishing" sites.

Phorm also plans to release OIX which it hopes will allow publishers, advertisers, and other agencies to reach their customers using "behavioral keywords."
"The OIX never knows - and can't record - who's browsing, or where they've browsed. The OIX is also a choice. It's easy for users to switch the system off or on at any time," according to Phorm's Web site.

Ernst and Young LLP conducted an independent audit regarding the collection, use, retention, and disclosure of information according to the AICPA Generally Accepted Privacy Principles.

E&Y's report stated that Phorm complied with privacy standards by performing actions such as not storing user IP addresses and ignoring information such as form fields with more than 3 digits which could potentially hold phone numbers, credit card numbers, or social security numbers.

Over 1,000 people have signed a Downing Street online petition asking the Prime Minister "to investigate the Phorm technology and if found to breach UK or European privacy laws then ban all ISP's from adopting it's use."

Kent Ertugrul, Chairman and Chief Executive of Phorm, said the group is optimistic about the release of new services.

"In a world where all websites rely on advertising for their existence this offers the promise of better content for consumers," he said. "Meanwhile Webwise, the joint initiative sponsored by our ISP partners, will also benefit consumers by making internet browsing safer as well as more relevant."

In a statement, a spokesman for The Information Commissioner's office said: "We are currently reviewing this information. We are also in contact with the ISPs who are working with Phorm and we are discussing this issue with them."


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