Every time I hear something about Phorm I get the impression that they are not nice people to deal with. It has been reported that they have taken umbrage at an article in this month’s Which? magazine entitled “Internet users say: don’t sell my surfing habits”.
Basically, Phorm is an advertising company. Their program works by sitting on servers at your ISP (so far BT has signed up – though not yet started the service, and Virgin and TalkTalk are looking at installing the program).
Sitting on your ISP’s servers, your websurfing habits are logged anonymously. Phorm go to great lengths to tell us that the information they log do not include sensitive information, and the information can not be traced back to any individual.
They say that consumers will like their service because it offers us two things: personally relevant adverts and anti-fraud filtering.
Two things I don’t need: More anti-fraud filtering, and personalised advertising.
I already have anti-fraud filtering offered by my anti-virus, web-browser and search engine provider. I’m not sure theirs is going to be any better than I have – personally I think it’s a distraction from their main business – selling personalised adverts.
If you use Facebook you will probably be aware of their advertising which uses your profile information to serve you “relevant” adverts. My marital status was set to single so I was constantly getting “39 and still single” adverts. Did I think: “Wow what a relevant ad I must surely click on it to find out more.”? Nope, I thought: “How patronising and creepy.”
So I changed my marital status to nothing. Now I just get get quick rich adverts.
Phorm say that we really don’t want irrelevant ads. I say, I want relevent ads to the website I am visiting, but would prefer the website to control that. Personalised adverts are very creepy. I would also say the the MOST annoying adverts are the pop-ups that block the content I am trying to read. I tell you, I don’t visit those sites twice.
Back to Which? I found their article and press release fairly even handed, but clearly Phorm thought it was defamatory. If there’s one thing that makes me suspicious about a company it’s heavy handedness with discussion. They tried responding to critics for a while, but have clearly changed their strategy to intimidation.
Watch them closely.