Phorm launches consumer service – but where are the ISPs?

Phorm has launched a new consumer service called Webwise Discover – but it’s still waiting for a British ISP to roll out its highly controversial technology.

Phorm launches consumer service - but where are the ISPs?

Webwise Discover is based on the same deep-packet inspection technology as the company’s controversial advertising offering.

Discover will allow website publishers to publish widgets on their website that will offer visitors other relevant internet content, based on their surfing history. Website publishers can choose to either direct visitors to other parts of their own site or relevant pages on the internet as a whole.

Discover users will also be given access to their own personal homepage, where they will find recommendations for sites or stories that are relevant to their interests, in a similar vein to services such as Delicious and StumbleUpon.

Like the company’s targeted advertising service, Webwise Discover is a network-based technology that has to be deployed by ISPs.

Phorm has commercial agreements with BT, Carphone Warehouse and Virgin Media in this country, but despite today’s announcement, all three are still yet to commit to a full launch.

Phorm executives refused to be drawn on when the ISPs might begin to roll out the services. “When there’s any announcement to be made in the UK, we’ll make it,” said CEO Kent Ertugrul.

Pressed on why ISPs are taking so long to deploy Phorm’s services, Ertugrul claimed: “It’s fair to say that the ISPs want to do this correctly. It involves an enormous amount of preparation. It’s taken a long time – no question.”

Privacy concerns

One explanation for the ISPs reluctance is undoubtedly the ongoing debate over Phorm’s privacy.

Phorm says the new Webwise Discover service will have the same “world leading standard of privacy” as its advertising service, which produces tailored ads based on the user’s surfing history.

Users will have the same “unavoidable option” to opt-out of the service and all data collected will be anonymised, Phorm insists.

Such measures haven’t been enough to allay the concerns of critics such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who described Phorm’s deep-packet inspection technology as like “putting a television camera in your room”.

Ertugrul admits the furore over Phorm’s privacy has unsettled Phorm’s UK ISP partners. “It would be wrong to say the ISPs aren’t concerned about bad publicity,” he admitted.

However, he insisted that the public at large is enthusiastic about tailored advertising and content, citing a Phorm-commissioned survey that showed that Webwise Discover had a 76% approval rating from more than 2,000 consumers.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos