UK ISPs To Start Tracking Your Surfing To Serve You Ads

from the pirvacy-please dept

For years now, ISPs have been searching for alternative revenue streams to avoid just being "dumb pipes." A few years ago, they picked up on the fact that they have a tremendous amount of data about what you (yes, you!) do online. A bunch of ISPs then started selling your clickstream data to companies that could do something useful with it (though, those ISPs probably neglected to tell you they were doing this). Late last year, we heard about a company that was trying to work with ISPs to make use of that data themselves to insert their own ads based on your surfing history -- and now we've got the first report of some big ISPs moving into this realm. Over in the UK three big ISPs, BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media have announced plans to use your clickstream data to insert relevant ads as you surf through a new startup called Phorm.

While Phorm claims that it keeps your data private "by tracking individual users with an assigned number only," that's hardly assuring. After all, remember that both AOL and Netflix have released similar anonymized data where identifying info was replaced with an assigned number... and it didn't take long for both sets of data to be de-anonymized. While it's no surprise that ISPs would want to get into the advertising business, and to think that they could better target ads thanks to their knowledge of your entire surfing history, it's going to freak some people out (and potentially cause some serious privacy problems). All the more reason to figure out how encrypt your traffic and hide your activities from your ISP.

Filed Under: advertising, clickstream data, isps
Companies: bt, carphone warehouse, virgin media


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  1. identicon
    Flipside, 19 Feb 2008 @ 5:31am

    I like pirvacy and indulge frequently ;)

    Seriously though, I agree that these companies will simply lose their more intelligent customers wholesale, which is good, because it means more responsible ISP will have the brighter browsers and Virgin and BT can deal with situations like 'I unplugged the modem lead and now my Internet doesn't work!'

    If it had been smaller companies, I'd be more inclined to understand their reasons but for large ISP's such as this, it is purely greed.

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