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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Web Creator Rejects Net Tracking

The creator of the Web has said consumers need to be protected against
systems which can track their activity on the internet. Sir Tim
Berners-Lee told BBC News he would change his internet provider if it
introduced such a system. Plans by leading internet providers to use
Phorm, a company which tracks web activity to create personalised adverts,
have sparked controversy. Sir Tim said he did not want his ISP to track
which websites he visited. "I want to know if I look up a whole lot of
books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my
insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going
to go up by 5% because they've figured I'm looking at those books," he
said. Sir Tim said his data and web history belonged to him... Phorm
has said its system offers security benefits which will warn users about
potential phishing sites -- websites which attempt to con users into
handing over personal data. The advertising system created by Phorm
highlights a growing trend for online advertising tools - using personal
data and web habits to target advertising. Social network Facebook was
widely criticised when it attempted to introduce an ad system, called
Beacon, which leveraged people's habits on and off the site in order to
provide personal ads... According to "The Register" ("Gov advisors:
Phorm is illegal"), "The Foundation for Information Policy Research
(FIPR), a leading government advisory group on internet issues, has
written to the Information Commissioner arguing that Phorm's ad targeting
system is illegal. In an open letter posted to the think tank's website
today, the group echoes concerns voiced by London School of Economics
professor Peter Sommer that Phorm's planned partnerships with BT, Virgin
Media and Carphone Warehouse are illegal und the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The letter, signed by FIPR's top
lawyer Nicholas Bohm, states: 'The explicit consent of a properly-informed
user is necessary but not sufficient to make interception lawful'...
Bohm uses the letter to urge the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas,
to ignore the conclusions of the Home Office, which advised BT and the
other ISPs that Phorm's technology is legal."

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