UK: Phorm threat

By EDRi · January 28, 2009

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

One particular commercial threat to internet privacy should be looked at
very closely by our fellow European Digital Rights campaigners.

That threat is Phorm: an invasive and probably illegal web advertising
technology that could soon be coming to you.

Phorm works by looking at the web traffic between you (an ISP client) and
the sites you visit. Phorm examines the content of the web pages you visit,
and logs keyword information derived from it. Phorm can then deliver adverts
to you based on keyword information.

For instance, if you visit car related sites, and make searches for new car
models, you would start seeing car adverts when you visit Phorm’s partner’s

UK EDRi-member Open Right Group (ORG) was alerted last March on the serious
privacy concerns Phorm poses, and has been working hard to establish what is
really being advocated.

We believe the technology is fundamentally invasive and illegal. Permission
to examine data moving from website visitor and owner must be approved in
advance by both parties. Not obtaining permission from both parties is

Yet UK ISPs such as BT and Virgin are not seeking to gain permission from
website owners.

Seeing web traffic as belonging to sender and receiver is the right way to
view privacy on the net. The data on websites belongs to many people, and
the data exchanged and the relationship between a client and a website owner
should remain private.

Despite these obvious privacy and legal worries, Phorm could soon be on the
agenda in your country too.

ISPs are interested because it gives them the potential to dominate the
internet advertising sector.

Many ‘content creators’ and EU governments could be interested in Phorm,
because they perceive ad revenues to be slipping from traditional domestic

This is why you need to be interested, as Phorm’s invasive technology could
easily be seen to be a panacea for Europe’s advertising market troubles.

Foundation for information policy research – Open Letter to the Information
Commissioner (17.03.2008)

The Phorm storm (12.03.2008)

4 good reasons not to take part in the BT Webwise trial (30.09.2008)

What BERR want from Phorm – and what we think they’re missing (19.09.2008)

The Phorm “Webwise” System (18.05.2008)

(contribution by Jim Killock, EDRi-member Open Rights Group – UK)