'Prosecute BT' for Ad-Serving Software: Cambridge Computer Guru

09 June 2008

CAMBRIDGE, UK: Telecoms titan BT should be prosecuted for "illegal" trials of Phorm, a controversial ad-serving technology, says security expert Dr Richard Clayton (pictured) of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory

Clayton reached this controversial conclusion after reviewing a leaked BT internal report that details a 2006 trial of the Phorm system, which matches ads to web-users' tracked habits.

BT, not famed for its customer-friendly service, omitted to inform surfers that they were part of the original trials in 2006 and 2007, although 30,000 subscribers were involved and approaching nineteen million web pages intercepted.

BT, however, in acrchetypal lofty mode dismissed the academic's concerns, describing the project as "a small scale technical test".

Clayton is of a diiferent mindset: "It's against the law of the land; we must now expect to see a prosecution," he told BBC News.

His view is echoed by Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the worldwide web, who argues that consumers need to be protected against systems which track activity on the internet. He maintains that his data and web history belong to him alone – and not his ISP.

But BT plans to proceed with a third Phorm trial later this summer.  "We have not announced a date yet; we are still planning - it will be quite soon," said a spokesperson.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff