UK: selling your browsing data
I would certainly be uncomfortable with my ISP selling my browsing information to a third party to serve me targeted advertising. But that’s exactly what three UK ISPs (BT, Virgin Media, and Carphone Warehouse) are planning to do.
Worse, the third party is Phorm (previously 121Media) which is run by Kent Ertugrul, a serial entrepreneur whose past ventures include PeopleOnPage, an ad network that was blacklisted as spyware by the likes of Symantec and F-Secure. Instructions to remove it as spyware are provided on several websites such as Adware.
Web users will be identified only by an anonymised number. Phorm’s service, called Webwise, doesn’t actually collect or store personal information and therefore touts itself as “setting a whole new gold standard in online privacy.”
Does it? Perhaps it looks like that on the surface but there seems to be three problems:
– First, there are precedents where similarly anonymised data has been de-anonymised.
– Secondly, there aren’t easy ways for people to opt out or even be properly informed/consulted.
– Finally, I think this represents the limitations of privacy laws in UK and other countries where the focus is on controlling collection and storage of personal information. A second aspect of privacy- spatial privacy or people having the right to control their private space that was highlighted by the Law Commission’s report– deserves equal protection but is largely ignored by the law.
In my house, the family shares the Internet connection so my ads are probably going to be: Bratz dolls, the latest SingStar release, the new Black Eyed Peas CD, compost, and dog biscuits.