One form of data mining is behavioral targeting which means that ads are served that fit into the surfing pattern of a user. Spending your time on teen forums will deliver advertisement for teens to the user and someone who is checking the latest stock market news will be delivered financial news. This is a goldmine for advertisers and obviously for the ones selling the user information. And that could be your ISP.
Phorm ist just one company that brought together leading UK ISPs like BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk and advertisers to deliver on the spot targeted advertisement to the users. The data is said to be anonymous which probably means that every user can be identified by a number instead of his real name or address.
Are the IPSs informing their users about their cooperation with Phorm ? No they are not. It is believed that the BT alone rakes in $170 Million per year from selling information to Phorm.
There will be users who say that they do not mind, that they do not have anything to hide, that the data is anonymous and that they do get targeted ads instead of ads that are not interesting to them but the majority will probably do not like the fact that their ISP is selling their data to other companies without their consent.
We have learned from the AOL search information debacle that it is indeed possible to find the real person behind a number of search requests. And that's probably only the first step anyway.
Antiphorm tries to make Phorm useless by simulation activity in the background by visiting thousands of websites every hour. To ensure the safety of the system the websites are not opened directly in a browser but parsed instead which reduces the probability of a vulnerability immensely.
I'm not a huge fan of those applications and I have to admit that it would probably make more sense to protest against this business practice, write letters to MOPs, the ISPs and civil rights groups to inform them about the problem.
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.