Insights from the UK and beyond
The phuss over Phorm
The targeted online advertising company Phorm, which has been accused of spying, breaking the law and just about everything else in the last year, has launched its latest charm offensive in its battle to prove its innocence.
The British company sparked damning headlines last year when it signed up the three biggest Internet service providers BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse to provide adverts to Web
sites based on the surfing trends of users.
Phorm says the system is completely anonymous, does not store data on its users and will enable online publishers to make more money by showing more relevant adverts. With more interesting ads, there would also be fewer needed, they say.
Its service, which is yet to launch, has been welcomed by the media regulator and minister in charge of planning Britain’s digital future.
But its critics, who have formed Web sites, campaigns and a devoted following, say the company is “snooping” on online users and selling their surfing habits to advertising companies.
In its drive to win the PR battle, Phorm held its second “Town Hall” meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the public’s concerns and questions.
Far from feisty, the meeting was a mostly civil affair although the top table, led by former Chancellor and non-executive director Norman Lamont, still faced many questions on how they handle the data.
The rather tall men with wires dangling from their ears, looking suspiciously like security guards, had a quiet evening.
Chief Executive Kent Ertugrul, sounding somewhat exasperated at times, painted Phorm’s opponents as a small fringe who had managed to create a lot of noise.
Phorm says customers will be given a choice as to whether they use the Webwise service and hinted that customers could be given incentives to sign up, saying reduced broadband connections or a donation to charity was being considered by the company.
They said they would gladly welcome a UN weapons “Hans Blix”-type inspector who could verify their promise of anonymity, but without that, would continue to answer as many questions as were put to them.
Would you consider using the technology to see more relevant ads or do you think Phorm is going a step too far.