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BT should face prosecution for its "illegal" trials of a controversial ad-serving technology, a leading computer security researcher has said.
Dr Richard Clayton at the University of Cambridge made his comments after reviewing a leaked BT internal report.
The document reveals details of a 2006 BT trial with the Phorm system, which matches adverts to users' web habits.
"It's against the law of the land," he told BBC News. "We must now expect to see a prosecution."
AD Trial Brings Calls For Prosecution [news.bbc.co.uk]
Personally I say let the hackers have at Phorm if it's taken live.
It will be rather a large, evil target, won't it? >;->
Isn't this like dragging a table, a chair, some merchandise and folded-up display board through the front door of shop, setting up a stall which blocks access to the rest of the shop and then selling passers-by your own goods from the stall?
How is this not trespassing?
"Unfortunately I am in no position to give assurances about anything related to what services BT Business consider using in future, however based on the BT Webwise situation I can tell you that any such thing will be publicised before launch. It will also almost certainly be an opt-in system, as this was a condition imposed by the regulator on BT Webwise."
So; the system is to be opt-in, not because that's the way BT want it but because 'the regulator' says so. Now how many people are going to opt-in to a scheme that spies on their browsing habits and then throws more ads at them? Not very many IMO and those that do so will only be potential purchasers of masochist gear and straitjackets.
I was categorically told that by BT. But then, back in July 2007 I was categorically told by them that there was no testing of 121media / Phorm going on.
Can anyone trust them?
As for how many people will opt-in that will depend on the question they put in the consent box.
Remember, the whole benefit for users of Webwise is that they get a super-duper anti-phising tool to protect them from all the nasty websites out there.
If the question is framed in such a way that Joe Punter thinks he's getting something for nothing then the opt-in rate could be better than the 10% now expected.
1. Block all IP-ranges from ISPs who implement this. Redirect users to a page that tells them 'this service is unavailble to customers of your internet service provider'. Explain your potential user what is going on and how they can improve their own internet experience (ie. switch ISP)
2. A massive class-action lawsuit on behalf of all webpublishers.
3. All get a certificate and go SSL
I must say, this development is both deeply disturbing and thought-provoking at the same time.
Originally not opting in only meant that the user was not protected by the Webwise phising tools and would not receive the targeted ads. His traffic was still to be processed by Phorm so your pages will still be processed if a BT user (opted in or not) visits your site.
Phorm have created a procedure for webmasters to ask for their sites to be excluded from all Phorm processing but I would advise not to do that.
You have to write in with the domain name and proof of ownership. That has it's problems itself but the main reason for not doing this is because it is forcing us web site owners to have to opt-out our sites.
If Phorm want our sites to be used for their marketing they should ask us to opt-in our sites.
Now, I haven't tested any of this, but someone with a large website and a substantial number of users in the Uk should try this, and then create a post with suggestions on how we should react. Thanks in advance.
Later today the creator is suspending it in protest at today's ICO announcement.
The head of the ICO Richard Thomas has to resign for this latest announcement. It is beyond fantasy.
[edited by: encyclo at 1:02 am (utc) on June 10, 2008]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]
I'm imagining BT have bullied them sufficiently into removing the content, anyone here copy it?
There is one simple answer to this: everyone boycot the ISP's involved, currently BT, Virgin and TalkTalk.
It should be fairly easy to make a JS/CGI page validation system with something like Perl, based on a hash of the page. You could have a JS file that calls a CGI script on your server, that returns a hash of the calling page (use the referrer string). The JS then compares that with a hash of the actual page.
Something like that anyway, I'll have a think.
[edited by: engine at 4:14 pm (utc) on June 12, 2008]
[edit reason] removed broken link [/edit]