Controversial online behavioural targeting company Phorm is finally planning its UK launch. Phorm has been the subject of lots of discussion due to their much feared technology that allows them to track users online behaviour. Phorm analyses user behaviour and then serves adverts specifically tailored to them.
Some online privacy groups have tried to block the roll out of Phorm, which they see as impinging on their online privacy. Some websites – most notably Amazon and Wikipedia – have publicly stated that they will block Phorm from collecting user data.
Despite this, Phorm’s ‘Webwise Discover’ will launch in the UK before the end of the year following a successful trial in Korea in May.
In order to go live, however, Phorm faces the not insignificant job of convincing the major ISPs (Carphone Warehouse, Virgin and BT) to partner with them, since they need the assistance of the internet provider in order to make the technology work.
From a users’ viewpoint, Phorm’s Webwise Discover will simply be a small box overlaid on the corner of their screen, which will contain personally tailored adverts, videos, images or even news stories.
There are a couple of examples of the kind of tailored content the system will be able to produce. Let’s say that based on user behaviour Phorm can work out that you’re interested in the footballer ‘Wayne Rooney’. The next time you surf the internet, Phorm will automatically locate new content and articles about Rooney.
Or taking the example of shopping, you could be on a website looking for a particular product. The system can automatically locate reviews or live auctions for that item.
To lay privacy concerns to rest, Phorm are saying that users will have the option to switch the service off and on at any time. Phorm has also said that the system is completely anonymous, and keeps no record of browsing history or any personal information.
For our part, we believe that the issue of online privacy has been confused by the media. Behavioural targeting such as Phorm means getting a personalised, more relevant version of the Internet. It doesn’t mean that your personal details, or for example your bank account information, is in any way compromised.
And ‘Webwise Discover’ might sound a bit scary at the moment, but once people have the chance to try it out we think many fears will be laid to rest, as people like the degree of personalisation it can offer.
What do you think? As a website builder, would you use Phorm to promote your site to new users? Is Phorm a small step forward for the Web, or something to be avoided at all costs? Leave us comment below.