BBC ponders the Phorm question

May 19, 2009

The BBC has said that unlike websites such as Amazon and Wikipedia, which have come out and blocked the targeted advertising from Phorm, the jury is still out on whether it decides to allow it or not.

Phorm is a service that websites can use to track users’ surfing habits and build a user profile.

These profiles are then used to offer advertising that matches the users’ surfing habits.

However, many broadband users do not want to be monitored and the secret trials conducted by BT and Phorm have made the anti Phorm protest even more determined.

The BBC Online controller, Seetha Kumar has stated that she is not making a decision either way until the Phorm service has been rolled out by ISPs BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media, on their networks.

It is believed that Phorm and the BBC are incompatible anyway, as the BBC does not allow third parties to gather data for financial gain.


Comments in chronological order (2 comments)

  1. bluecar1 says:

    one thing i do not understand is the BBC not lodging a complaint with phorm / BT over their use of the WEBWISE brand name

    it leads to confusion of parents who think the BBC’s childrens / eductional WebWise website is linked to data collection, tracking and advertising.

    this can only lead to the BBC Webwise brand being damaged and devalued in the eyes of people if the two are thought to be linked

    come on BBC get a bit if backbone and challenge phorm/BT over their use and damage to your brand, and also publically OPT-OUT all of the BBC website from being scraped for commercial gain by phorm, BT and your competitors


  2. ian says:

    Seetha Kumar stated that the Beeb is waiting for the outcome of the EU investigation. I say that whatever the outcome of EU proceedings, whether Phorm’s ‘webwise’ is ultimately deemed to be legal or not is irrelevant.
    (that’s Webwise the online behavioural profiling thechnology, not WebWise the BBC’s guide to using the internet – I wouldn’t want to cause any confusion over trading names)

    The BBC UK content is publicly funded and therefore Seema is quite right, it is not appropriate for third parties to use the data profiles of the users of BBC services for commercial gain. It is also not right for a third party to use the BBC online content for commercial gain.

    But this isn’t just about commercial gain. It is also about privacy. Privacy of users of the BBC
    From the email exchanges in that FOI release it is clear that there are individuals at high levels within the BBC who fully understand how Phorm’s ‘Webwise’ works.

    Has the BBC considered children? what about CBBC and CBeebies websites? would the BBC be comfortable

    knowing that DPI technology was profiling children while they happily surf those areas?

    The BBC Charter may require impartiality but the BBC should remember, you are funded by the public and therefore protecting your own interests should not be considered as more important than protecting the interests of the general public.

    The BBC should simply do what it knows and believes is the right thing to do.
    This doen’t have to be aimed specifically at any single company. Simply block the use of DPI profiling of BBC UK websites for the protection of users privacy and prevention of commercial gain. Enforce your copyright notice.

    If Phorm should cease their operation tomorrow, some other dodgy company will be waiting in the wings to attempt to carry on where they left off.

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