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Virgin Media signs targeted ad deal [Update 2]

# 26 February 2008, 20:00 by Cable Forum

Online privacy? What is this? Must be a thing of the past according to recent reports. Three top Internet Service Providers, which includes Virgin Media, have signed an agreement with Phorm, an entity which has technologies which track web users surfing habits and then serves them adverts related to their interests. BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media have apparently agreed to hand over details of its customers surfing habits, which will then allow Phorm to serve up ads direct to customers of those ISPs mentioned above.

Check your calendar, its not an April fools joke, this is going to happen. So how will it all work?

Apparently Phorm says its setting up a new online advertising platform called the Open Internet Exchange, which any Web site will be allowed to join. Ads will then be served up on such sites and ad revenues generated from such ads will be shared with BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse.

So BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse, have agreed to give Phorm access to customers’ surfing records, letting it track their every move on the web. The Internet exchange can send an ad directly to the marketer’s target audience, anywhere on the Web.

The hope is, that an advertiser would be willing to pay more to target the right audience, quickly and efficiently. This is apparently a better option than a advertiser approaching a web publisher and hoping an Internet user lands on the site displaying the ad.

Apparently, Kent Ertugrul, chief executive of Phorm, based in London had the following to say:

“Now you can turn things around for the advertising industry, and say, ‘You define the audience you want to reach”.

So you have read up to this point and you are absolutely fuming about the thought of your ISP tracking your web surfing habits and sharing this information with a third party company, which then hopes to serve you with an advert which suites your interest.

But hold on for a minute, apparently customers of the three main ISPs can opt out of the new system but they will be encouraged not to.

Phorm has also apparently stated that it would guarantee anonymity by tracking individual users with an assigned number only, and by regularly clearing the data.

Update 2:

Below is some information to frequently asked questions regarding this story, kindly provided by some of our members.


Who should I complain to about this if this is something I do not agree with?

The first port of call should be to complain to Virgin Media directly, state that you are not happy about your data being tracked and sold to a third party even if your identity is protected or not.

Secondly, there is a Data Protection concern regarding how the data is collected and the fact customers have automatically been opted in, regulation usually requires that customers should be given the option to Opt in, not Opt out.

If you are concerned and feel you need to complain to The Information Commissioner’s Office – ICO Website. You can ring them on 01625 545 745

When will Virgin Media Implement this system with Phorm?

Virgin Media have simply stated that they have not decided yet what they are doing or what options are there for the customers. The bottom line is, they need to be fully consulting with the customer and we will be making sure that they provide relevant information to the customer and what options will be available to them.

Is there anything I can download to prevent this ‘Intrusion’ i.e stopping the data analysis being collected by my ISP and passed on to the likes of Phorm?

Yes there is, its called Tor and can be downloaded Free from here. Please make sure you read the documentation before you decide to download and use it. Please note that use of this software is at your own risk.

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