BBC not sure whether to block Phorm
By Barry Collins
Posted on 18 May 2009 at 17:17
The BBC says the "jury is still out" on whether it will join websites such as Amazon and Wikipedia in blocking Phorm.
The controversial advertising service tracks the websites its users visit in order to build "anonymous" profiles of their online behaviour. Those profiles are then used to serve up adverts that match the user's habits.
The controller of BBC Online, Seetha Kumar, describes Phorm's technology as much more "invasive" than those which track users via cookies, because "it collects the user's entire web activity".
Yet, she claims she's deferring a decision on how to handle the site until the service is rolled out by one of Phorm's ISP partners - BT, Carphone Warehouse or Virgin. "My understanding is that Phorm is not currently deployed on a UK ISP, though it has been trialled," she writes on the BBC Internet blog. "So the jury is still out."
However, Kumar does suggest Phorm's tactics may breach the BBC's code of conduct. "Some principles remain true," she says. "They are quite simple - the privacy of our user and the code we follow as a public service broadcaster.
"This means it is not appropriate for third parties to use the data profiles of the users of BBC services for commercial gain."
Kumar says the BBC is waiting to see how the Government responds to an EU challenge about whether British law goes far enough to protect users from deep-packet inspection technologies, such as Phorm.
In the meantime, the BBC is inviting comments on what it should do.
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