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Phorm Partners With Top ISPs

OIX online advertising platform surprisingly popular

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The word "Phorm" looks like it should be attached to some "Star Trek" alien.  But Phorm is instead a Delaware-based online advertising company, and it has signed deals with ISPs Virgin Media, BT, and TalkTalk.

These three corporations are fairly huge in the UK, and Phorm indicates that its platform, the Open Internet Exchange (OIX), should lead to everyone receiving more money and fewer complaints.

Phorm Partners With Top ISPs

"The OIX is a marketplace serving campaigns on the most productive inventory for advertisers and helping online publishers increase the value of their websites," according to a statement.  "It will also revolutionise current standards of online privacy and fully protect the identity of consumers."

We’re inclined to believe Phorm, at least on that second front, as it had Ernst & Young take a look at OIX’s privacy aspects.  Also, in another development that should boost onlookers’ confidence, FT.com, Universal McCann, and iVillage all signed up for the launch (though that last entity isn’t doing so well).

OIX’s ability to work well with Virgin Media, BT, and TalkTalk remains to be seen.  But Phorm seems to have succeeded in establishing its own united federation of ISPs, and that’s an impressive start.

Phorm Partners With Top ISPs
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  • Anon

    It’s not yet clear whether Virgin Media have got beyond the negotiating stage. Their newsgroup support staff have been adamant that no practical steps have been taken to implement Phorm/OIX.

    There’s already a backlash starting. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/25/phorm_isp_advertising/

    The British may have more CCTV cameras and people on a national DNA database than any other country, but we tend to take the view that what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. That includes use of the Internet, even if, realisticly, complete privacy never existed.

    The idea of letting a company run by Kent Ertegrul who was the founder of PeopleOnPage, a company that produced software that has been described as spyware and a rootkit, sift through large amounts of, if not all, unencrypted web traffic to profile you, no matter how supposedly anonymously, does not sit well with a lot of British Internet users. AOL knows what can happen with supposedly anonymized personal data.

    We also should have some protection by being in the EU. There are two relevant EU directives that have been enacted into UK law – the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. The former covers the collection and retention of personal data. The latter governs how ISPs must behave to have limited liability; the UK has no common law concept of “common carrier.” These could be used in a possible legal challenge to this highly intrusive concept.

  • R Barnett

    Given that this system works by tapping into the ISP’s servers and collecting *all* information – URLs, keywords, web page contents – and then promising to anonymise (while retaining the IP address, which the EU regards as a personal identifier) and remove ‘sensitive’ data such as passwords & credit card numbers before sending the info to servers in China, the ISPs are asking their customers to take a lot on trust for zero benefit (actually less than zero as the system imposes a slight overhead for each active user).

    Still, at least the ISPs have announced this change clearly to their subscribers and offered a way to opt out of being scanned… ah.