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Telephore: April Fool.. or is it?

1st April 2008

Just in case you didn't spot the date, today is April Fool's Day.. and the Telephore story was a hoax, sorry! (You can see our previous April 1st stories here).

Of course, intercepting people's communications like this has horrendous privacy implications, so surely no-one would actually think of doing this? Right?

Wrong.

If you are live in the UK and your ISP is Virgin Media, BT or TalkTalk then this sort of technology may well be coming to your internet connection by the end of this year, courtesy of Phorm.

Phorm intercepts your web data at the ISP end, and then serves ads based on that browsing history. There are no plugins or software used for this, the data is actually copied and stored when your ISP serves it up to you. Phorm partners can then serve ads based on that browsing history. But because most household share an IP address, the danger is that ads might be served up to others in the household based on another person's browsing history.

Think about that - it means that your private surfing may no longer be as private as you thought, when Phorm starts serving up ads based on your own surfing habits to others.

What's worse, is that Phorm archives a copy of all the web pages you visit. Although Phorm say that this data is anonymized, however the AOL Search Data Scandal shows that this type of data is often not as anonymous as you would think. And as for the security of the data.. well, Phorm says that it has taken appropriate measures, but then I bet you thought your HMRC data was safe too?

We think that Phorm is very dangerous, and that ISPs and advertisers should have nothing to do with it. If you want to read more about Phorm, we recommend The Register's Phorm Files, BadPhorm and The Open Rights Group. There is also a petition at the 10 Downing Street web site which is nudging towards 10,000 signatures.

Of course, Phorm is not Telephore. We urge all our readers to look at the available information and make their own minds up.. but our opinion is that if you object to this type of data collection then you should do something about it.

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