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
    claire rand, 18 Feb 2008 @ 1:16pm


    wait until something 'adult' or otherwise offensive comes through, photograph it and sue them.

    of course peoples definitions of offensive vary, make yours wide in this case.

    and in this country the #1 crime is to cause offence, e.g. a advert for pork products being seen by a muslim rules out pork product advertising, films? well anything other than a 'U' is out.

    I dare say it will all be financial type ads.

    I can't think of a better reason to start using encrypted traffic. https:// indeed

    no one seems to have twigged, makes ads relevent and target correctly, you know make it stuff I may actually be interested in, not stuff you've shown me god alone knows how many times before, or i already have, or plain don't care about.

    also you wanna play hardball? hope your tracking how many images i download or block, cus i'll turn all media 'off' and load images one by one if need be.

    oh and change the images on *my* website without me knowing and a court case will be headed your way very soon for copyright infringement.

    ISPs.. put down the can of worms and walk away slowly.

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