NEWS3 June 2009

Phorm CEO slams ad targeting critics as vociferous ‘minority’

Privacy UK

UK— Phorm CEO Kent Ertugrul today hit back at UK critics of his firm’s targeted advertising technology, claiming that it has not met the same level of hostility from other countries.

The technology, which keeps track of the websites a user visits to match them with relevant advertising, has been criticised by a “minority” of opponents since it was secretly trialled on BT internet customers, Ertugrul said.

Privacy campaigners and technology experts in the UK have attacked Phorm’s system, claiming it involves an illegal interception of personal data. The European Commission has also commenced legal proceedings against the UK over its interpretation of EU privacy directives in the wake of the BT trials, while the technology was likened to “snooping” by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

However, Ertugrul said: “There has been next to no opposition in other countries to the targeted advertising, but those countries don't have so many people working overtime [to criticise the company].”

He said that Phorm’s privacy policies exceed current legal standards and insisted that firm “cared” about consumers’ privacy.

Ertugrul said that the system is currently operating in Korea, which he considered to be the “most advanced internet market”, and that Phorm was “engaged in pretty much every major market in the world”.

He would not give any clues though as to when the targeted advertising system would be rolled out in the UK, other than saying that “ISPs want to do things correctly” and that the firm would make an announcement in the future.

Ertugrul’s comments came as the firm unveiled the new Webwise Discover service, which uses the same deep packet inspection technology as the targeted advertising tool to automatically find online content that a user has expressed an interest in.

For example, if someone looks up articles about Barack Obama on a newspaper website, they will be presented with all further stories on the US president every time they return to the site.

As with the targeted advertising software, the system has been launched in Korea but Phorm was unable to confirm a launch date in the UK.