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Virgin Media and Phorm Latest Update

# 5 March 2008, 17:42 by Cable Forum

The Register has been doing some extensive coverage of the news we announced about two weeks ago now, about the targeted Ad technology by Phorm that Virgin Media have recently signed up to, along with BT and Talk Talk. According to The Register, a leading expert on computer surveillance questions the legality of the deals from the above mentioned ISPs with Phorm.

Phorm have vigorously emphasized that peoples privacy and indentity will not be breached. The problem is though that Phorm, does have a hidden past. Kent Ertegrul who runs Phorm, was also founder of PeopleOnPage, which was later an entity which got blacklisted by Symantec and F-Secure as SpyWare. But a spokesman told The Register in a phone interview, the links into the PeopleOnPeople, were a long time ago and that Privacy International have even given their thumbs up on the new ad deal, which involves, Virgin Media, BT and Talk Talk, spying on their broadband customers browsing habits and forwarding this data through Phorm.

Phorm may have convinced Privacy International and the ISPs it has subsequently signed up, but it has to start convincing the British public but that may be too little, too late as only yesterday, an e-petition on the Prime Ministers official number 10 Downing Street website was created and already just over 500 people have signed it.

Even our own poll in which just under 400 people have taken part, 95% don’t want their internet browsing being monitored whether Phorm can protect their privacy or not.

As I write this, it would appear that VirginMedia have set up their own Webwise section on their Web portal.

It would appear from the page Virgin Media is trying to reassure customers their privacy is safe, but its quite clear that Virgin Media are not listening or not taking any notice of what customers have been saying, which is sad to say that is an old trait that still appears to exist from its former identity, that we all used to know as ‘NTL’. But its not just on our site that customers are complaining but other sites such as The Register and DigitalSpy and now there is an official government Petition in process.

Customers can opt out but even this is leaving more questions unanswered. The Opt out involves a ‘cookie’ to be stored on the users computer, it will tell Phorms systems that you do not want relevant ads coming your way, but by also Opting out, customers will no longer be protected by Webwise anti-phishing technologies, any person can spot that this is obviously a blackmail attempt, but most modern browsers come with this protection anyway.

Even smaller ISPs such as Aquiss and Zen Internet have stated they will not sign up to what appears to be a ‘Shady’ practise and that they do not want to abuse its customers trust. We hear you, more or less everyone is saying the same thing, but it would appear ‘greed’ has superceded any kind of trust the customers had in these three ISPs. They have all made a big mistake which could cost them, as their churn percentages rise as customers leave in droves.

One question that should be answered by ISPs which have customers tied into the contracts, can they leave without penalty? Especially with such a drastic change in how they now offer us internet services, ‘sign up with us and we will watch every site you visit, send this information to a third party and then throw some relevant ads your way’.

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