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03.31.08

ISPs Tracking Everything You're Doing Online

By Janet Meiners

A controversial company in Britain is out to see everything you're doing online. And they are going straight to the source to find out - your ISP. They are about to partner with Britian's top ISPs (BT, Virgin and Talk Talk) to track every single action you take and use it to show you ads.

The company, called Phorm, says they have access to the surfing habits of 70 percent of British households who have broadband. Next they hope to sign telephone and cable companies to get information about their customer's search habits.

I don't know how to describe Phorm's style of communication, but it's unique and has a practically secretive feel to it while appearing to be completely open (just watch these videos from CEO Kent Ertugrul).

They track keywords on web sites you visit, and assign your search history a random number. They match your habits to categories of interest and show ads that relate. However, they don't store any of the information (it's timestamped) and you can opt out at any time.

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Phorm says advertisers will be more profitable because their software can help target advertising and show ads that match a person's interests. Less ads overall, but the ads that are shown are tied to all the data they have about you.

The company claims that web searchers benefit because they'll see less advertising and Phorm will block fraudulent sites. They also note that they won't track e-mail, your credit card information or other secure websites.

A report by Simon Davies and Gus Hosein, of 80/20 Thinking Ltd, is one of the many who've objected. Phorm insists that the information they gather cannot be traced to a particular person.

There have been many cases that search information has been used in court cases or turned over to the government. Search engines like Google store your search history. Phorm claims they do more by storing information temporarily and after that its untraceable.

Timothy Berners-Lee, the man who helped create the World Wide Web isn't convinced and says he'll change ISPs rather than submit to be followed by Phorm.

Thanks to Dave Taylor for the tip.

Comments


About the Author:
Janet Meiners always wanted to be a reporter but prefers the immediacy of blogging. Known as Newspapergrl, she has freelanced for newspapers, City Search, and business magazines. She reports on internet marketing and online trends.

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