Web Creator Rejects Net Tracking

The creator of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has said consumers need to be protected against systems which can track their activity on the internet. Sir Tim told BBC News he would change his internet provider if it introduced such a system. Plans by leading internet providers to use Phorm, a company which tracks web activity to create personalised adverts, have sparked controversy.

Sir Tim said he did not want his ISP to track which websites he visited. "I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they've figured I'm looking at those books," he said.

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Once again, people need to learn how to use a HOSTS file to defeat online tracking and advertising; although this isn't going to happen for the vast majority of Internet users who know absolutely nothing about this medium that they're using and don't see the need to learn – or the harm inherent in their ignorance.

I think this will all depend on what is being tracked, and more importantly, who. I think there are many people who will get bombarded with adverts for products and services they don't need or indeed want.

I suppose you gotta wonder, where would it all stop? How about someone who does lots of downloading (legal and otherwise), are you going to get hit for all the downloads you do, more than you do already? What if you're a user who likes to browse a little bit of porn (taboo subject, ooooooooooooh) Are you going to get adverts for porn sites popping up all the time, at the most inopportune moments? What about the whole medical thing, like in the article. I don't want people at my ISP knowing if I have any sort of medical condition, no matter how obscure and unembarrasing!

Here's the thing, is it going to be a software solution that monitors your surfing, or is there going to be some form of admin(s)/user(s), like in a call centre that sit and review your browsing history then decide what is the best way to "spam" you?

Like all really good moneymaking wheezes, it's supposed to be a fully automated system. It sits in the ISP's service layer and routes all of every customer's web traffic through a gizmo which (a) accumulates data on that user's habits, (b) injects 'appropriate' ads into the returned content (whether the webmaster is participating or not, if I understand correctly) and © supposedly anonymises the content as it does so. The user's ID is stored in a good ol' fashioned tracking cookie as far as I understand it; I assume some content mangling must be employed in order for this cookie to be sent with every request to any page.

Phorm have been at pains to claim that there is no personally identifiable information accumulated by the system, and a couple of respected privacy advocates plus the Home Office have backed this up, but there is widespread skepticism about this claim. Yesterday, a uk.gov think-tank reported to the Information Commissioner its finding that the scheme was illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, partly because it was proposed as opt-out rather than opt-in, and partly because consent was also required from webmasters, and this could not be assumed.

It remains to be seen whether this report torpedoes the scheme, which BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk (a bloc accounting for about 70% of UK Internet users) have already signed up to, but I understand Phorm's share-price is already dipping after the report findings and Sir Tim's comments. (It should be noted that Sir Tim didn't name Phorm explicitly, but the timing is significant, especially from a man who doesn't pontificate to the press very often.)

It also doesn't help Phorm's position that they have now been 'outed' as a reincarnation of 121Media, a company formerly accused of distributing spyware

heh, if i created the internet, id be majorly ****ed too
ISPs have way to much power these days, they are stepping over the line of providing us with this service