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BT Web Services Spy Project To Be Deployed

Utilising a new website monitoring system called Phorm, BT will be capturing every one of their customers Website usage details in a database with the intention of then sending them advertising based on their on-line habits.

The system has the support of not only BT but also Virgin Media, and TalkTalk. Both ISPs will be deploying the system.

Earlier this year BT trialed the system using some 10,000 to 30,000 customers without their knowledge and then repeated this exercise in September and December. The internet service provider has now concluded its trial of the Phorm online advertising programme and is set to go ahead with its wide-scale deployment.

A  BT spokesman said "The trial has now concluded and achieved its primary objective of testing all the elements necessary for a larger deployment, including the serving of small volumes of targeting advertising,".

"Following successful completion of analysis of the trial results and of any changes required for expansion, BT's expectation is to move towards deployment. "

Phorm technology uses browsing information to serve accurately targeted advertisements.

The additional testing of the technology, which began this September, has been the subject of web criticism and scrutiny by parliament. Although its creators claim that any data collected would be anonymous, critics suggest that it might be intrusive and could violate personal privacy.

Whilst BT are calling this 'service to their customers' Webwise and claim it will enhance their customers on line experience, the reality is that it has nothing to do with customers needs, but is a business tool used to target advertising more accurately and successfully resulting in greater customer numbers buying products and services on the web.

Further BT has added a smokescreen to the realities of the data capture of every single BT web services customer, by claiming the it is a voluntary opt-in service. The fact is that EVERY user will have their website browsing habits stored permanently, with only those 'opting-in' having targeted browsing advertisement sent to them whist they are on line.

Given that a lot of this advertising downloads to the user's computer software that then tracks the users details and browsing habits even further puts paid to the argument that this service is benign. There is no control over the type of data these advertising 'bugs' capture.

In April this year as a result of complaints, the Information Commissioner said that the Webwise technology did not pose a threat to users' online privacy, because it did not collect information that would allow customers to be individually identified. And because it was an 'opt-in' system, the commissioner said, it did not breach the terms of the Data Protection Act.

The project has the backing of the UK Government who told the European Commission two weeks ago that it believed the BT Webwise platform, run by Phorm, is legal. The new trial follows a statement from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform that the service does not breach European data laws.

A petition, which asks the UK government to regulate Phorm's use, is ongoing until March 2009 and currently holds almost 20,000 signatures.

If you feel this system might invade your privacy, you can sign the ongoing petition here

Also users can ensure that their browser does not download the Phorm bug (known as a cookie) by adding "" to the Blocked Cookies settings in their web browser. (e.g. IE, Firefox etc)

Phorm website

BT Webwise



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