After telling the world it will soon pimp customer data to NebuAd - a behavioral ad targeting firm along the lines of Phorm and Front Porch - Charter Communications has received a letter from Congress questioning the legality of such pimping. As we reported yesterday, Charter - America's eighth largest ISP - plans to test NebuAd …
its about media - not caring
When (if) this becomes an issue covered by "big media" then this WILL be an issue. However, the media on this side of the pond is owned by the very corporations that stand to make the most from targeted adverts.
- they either own the web sites (MSNBC)
- or they are the ones placing the adverts (General Electric)
and so have a vested interest in keeping this (and many other stories) under wraps - or at least quite as is possible.
Paris cause she knows more about targeted adverts than most
...in a country that elected GWB to office, you have to actually ask?
The government hasn't told us it's bad, yet, and so the sheep are content, for now.
Shows how lame our Government is
Yes it is interesting how members of the Congress are interested in protecting their electorate with relatively little outcry, yet our Lame ducks in power choose to largely ignore the large UK outcry.
Meanwhile on this side of the pond
Check out how we are fighting the phuckers:
All 'mericans welcome
Either it's invasion of privacy or it isn't. Deep Packet Inspection is. Both sides of the pond.
Waiting for the story to get better
The US press runs its fair share of privacy scare stories. Maybe they're holding this one back until they can run it in the present tense, to make it scarier.
Speaking of press not caring, I think you'll find it's San Luis Obispo...
It might get attention if...
The press had ITS packets inspected without consent. Then published for all to see. THAT would lead to some very interesting stories.
Funny how things like this turn up in an election year!!
ISPs: paid for, reduced cost, free services?
For me the crux is: does an ISP provide services that respect client identity?
Paid for services always should protect customer ID, preferences and taste. It's what the customer pays for.
Should an ISP decide customer specific datamining (a nice little earner to an ISP?) forms part of its service than there should be a huge cost reduction [as in free ISP] to the customer.
Whatever approach ISP takes it should not be by stealth and explicitly state that customer habits/interests will be analysed and any pecuniary gains to ISP stated.
There also appear to be security interests at stake in the sense of how secure is the information gained by an ISP? (storage, access, and so forth ... )
".in a country that elected GWB to office, you have to actually ask?
The government hasn't told us it's bad, yet, and so the sheep are content, for now."
SO tell me what is the UK government doing about Phorm ??
"Charter is notifying customers affected by its NebuAd test, while pointing them to a page where they can opt-out of the service."
Yes, but ... the service isn't running yet, and when one goes to said page and opts-out of said service, they are told to try again later when the service is running.
And it's the same type of "opt-out" mechanism as was proposed by Phorm, in that it's a cookie, so you need to "opt-out" from any browser you might happen to use on every system you use.
For those of you (@ZM) who comment about the absence of an outcry on this side of the pond, well, there really hasn't been any notice of this at all, over here, unless you happen to dig into the Charter website, which few, if any, do. I heard about it from the Spamassassin mailing list, for crying out loud! And I don't know what the British press is like on these types of hot topics, but this type of geeky stuff is pretty much restricted to geek news outlets, anyway. Frankly, I'm proud of how quickly our elected reps have jumped on this ... especially when compared to the speed at which your elected officials have (under)reacted to Phorm and its much wider rollout.
Paris, because she is an American who doesn't mind people spying on her habits ...
If they look at my web-email, that's a probably violation under ECPA ((ECPA Pub. L. 99-508, Oct. 21, 1986, 100 Stat. 1848, 18 U.S.C. § 2510))
If they look at some of my other web postings, that's a potential violation under a statute that escapes me tho, something about an authors work in progress needing a special warrant. I think that one showed up in the Stever Jackson vs FBI case a while back, as well as the 2510 one.
It's going to take a while over on this left hand side of the big pond before the real furor starts!
@AC Re: what is the UK government doing about Phorm ??
The Home Office have said that for Phorm's product to be legal under UK law it must have the explicit consent of the customer and be OPT-IN ONLY.
This completely destroys Phorm's business model which is based on opt-out by default, relying basically on the fact that the majority of an ISP's customers will not be tech savvy enough to even realise that they are being profiled the second they go online! It also makes the flimsy cookie based opt-out they were originally proposing, which only prevents ads from being served after profiling takes place, illegal in the UK.
It severely limits Phorms options to maybe to the point of presenting their product as a downloadable toolbar with a EULA that the customer agrees to before installing, this puts Webwise / Phorm into the same category as CoolWebSearch, which is probably where it belongs with the rest of the Adware / Spyware.
It's been a long time since the US Media was any reflection on the desires and concerns of the US populous. What other reason could explain my love for El Reg?
Glad to see some of our congressmen are making themselves useful, hopefully they hold their ground before this idea spreads to other ISPs.
PS, to those who are attempting to compare US privacy and UK privacy, I'd say we all lose, just in different ways.
And even more sophisticated than sophisticated people would realise. ITs AI WMD
... but not as you know IT, 4IT2 is much more Powerful and Deadly Accurate to an Uncanny ICANNy Degree, with Zero Collateral Damage. IT hits Right at the Core of Matters and ITs Core Problems Source.
I don't think people realize what's going on - how sophisticated this tracking is."
Which really translates to ........We, the government and authorities didn't and don't know what is going on, and how sophisticated has been the tracking of their/our deeds/habits/dealings. For it is naive to think that such tracking and analysis is new rather than just being commercially "trialled".
And boy, with regard to what has been discovered in its Governments Test Stage, is that a dirty dodgy closet full of haunting skeletons spilling forth sad and sorrow tales which they are realising far too late uncovers and brings down perverted and corrupted dynastic corporations, simpleton fraudsters masquerading as valiant troopers and defenders of the faith whenever abusers of office and old knowledge is the true sum fo their worth.
Ah well, I suppose they'll be scurrying around looking to throw a fortune at that which can save the situation, and their sorry hides, [a spooky pun:-)] for that is surely the only way that they can survive in retirement from Public Life and Private Gain.
Other alternatives can and therefore probably will only cause them unbearable and untold/untolled Pain although any Chosen from that List of Options, would be Madness Confirmed and Ignorant Arrogance Reinforced, meThinks
"SO tell me what is the UK government doing about Phorm ??"
Mainly, they're keeping their heads down and hoping it blows over. They're to busy shitting themselves over the economy and trying to hide their expense claims from us.
That is, if they even know anything about phorm. When they realise that *their* browsing will be tracked as well, they might start paying attention.
UK Politicians ... HaHaHa
With a few honourable exceptions, they have been useless over this issue.
The unelected House of Lords appears to be providing a better lead. A cynic might suppose that ex-cabinet Ministers sitting on the BT board might be influencing events, but I could not possibly suggest that.
Given the results of the recent local elections, there may well be a few 'nu-labour' MP's experiencing a 'sqeeky-bum time', wishing to look after the interests of their electorate at some stage.
Trouble is, it will be too little, too late. Other people will have done their work for them.
Paris because she would raise the tone of the House of Commons.
"".in a country that elected GWB to office, you have to actually ask?
The government hasn't told us it's bad, yet, and so the sheep are content, for now."
SO tell me what is the UK government doing about Phorm ??"
Are you asking that question to ZM? Because if you read ZM's post you'll see it clearly implies that ZM is from the USA, as evidenced by the use of the word "us" in the second sentence.
Here in the UK it's been three months since Phorm was exposed and we are still waiting to hear from any senior politician on the subject.
A huge firestorm in the UK?
Jeff Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy is clearly doing his best to awaken fellow Americans, and there's no doubt that El Reg has done its bit and more to raise valid concerns over the use of behavioural advertiing. But to say there has been "a huge firestorm" is to overlook the massive outbreak of public apathy in the UK.
@Fred is right to point out that there are large vested interests involved, and that advertisers and comummunications infra-structure providers each believe they have much to gain from snoop systems. But though this may explain the rather slight general press coverage, it doesn't entirely explain why there seems to be so little public concern.
Sadly, the cause may be that governments have succeeded in their repeated bids for a greater share of people's freedoms. Their catchlines such as, "You're either with us or against us," and, "If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear," facile though they are, do seem to have sunk home. The power of the mob is indeed very strong.
Well-reasoned arguments that various invasive measures to save us from terrorists and paedophiles and so forth do more harm than good have often fallen on deaf or disbelieving ears. And for many of those who did actually hear, to try to buck the trend is either too much trouble or not worth the risk of being labelled a dissenter.
Perhaps, for some, opposition also seems to be an impossible task. It did, after all, take many years of struggle to assert the freedoms that have already been lost.
A leopard can't change its spots
And neither can the scum of the earth targeted ad providers. A vice president of NebuAd is Scott Tavenner. He was also a vice president at Claria Corporation, better known as Gator. Gator was one of the first spyware/adware programs ever. Gator was sneaky, ambiguous, and misleading. Do you really think NebuAd or Phorm or Front Porch or any of these data whores will be any different?
I read somewhere that DPI advertising was like a Midas touch, you could turn 'trash' to gold by taking supposedly 'worthless' third party websites, copying the (copyright) text and using them as profile fodder, selling the info to advertisers, and even insert ads into the unexploited pages to make them more 'valuable'.
The problem is I'm certain the copyright owners of those sites don't see it quite the same way. When you start ripping them off you will suffer grievously.
In particular ISPs doing this in the states want their heads tested.
"But wait, how can I spot the culprits?" Ooh look there's the IP address in the request. This isn't like the sneaky days of spyware. We will know who's doing it, and how often... they reveal their ISP with every page impression. (kerching kerching kerching).
Its like the legendary burglar with his name tag sewn into a balaclava by his Mum.
"King Midas has a donkey's ears".
"When it comes to protecting privacy, so many Americans just can't be bothered."
So that's why privacy advocates consistently rate the UK above the US in their lists of the worst surveillance states.
Also of Note:
The US press doesn't really know good IT/Internet related stories. They'll wait for we grass roots types to raise a bother and then cover that.
It was/is the same thing with net neutrality. The press didn't pay any attention until it became the cause celebre with hipsters. Then the coverage was crazy and just as lopsided as they wanted it to be.
The same will happen with the NebuAd Charter deal. As soon as some protest goes down at a college the press will be all over it. In the meantime Charter subscribers (like me) need to get the word out far and wide.
Nebuad was already being trialed/deployed in the US by WOW.
It seems there was also a trial of Nebuad in 2007 by "Redmoon"
Meanwhile BT's latest Phorm trial must be about 2 months behind schedule and Phorm is yet to be rolled out in the UK, thanks to negative press coverage, outcry by the more techie members of the public and leaks by whistleblowing BT employees.
Prior to Charter adopting Nebuad, where I had seen a discussion of Phorm or Nebuad on US forums, there did seem to be more acceptance of this practice.
Anyway I'm delighted to read that members of US Congress are jumping on this, I hope Congress doesn't take the perverse view that this should be allowed because it is good for business, as our Home Office seems to have done - ignoring the fact that if the purchases and other activity of 70% of customers in the UK visiting e-commerce sites is spied on, this could give phorm access to an unprecedented amount of commerciallly sensitive data about indivisual businesses, and would be decidedly bad for those businesses if it were sold to competitors, or even if it is just used by competitors to target adverts at indivisual customers.
You think Phorm's bad...
wait until about 7 months from now, when the Democrats win big in the US elections and the full scope of our government's spying on its own citizens is revealed to the public. It'll make Phorm and its ISP-sniffer cronies look like kiddie code.
The reason most people don't know about it over here is because all we get over here is Fox News (Rupert Murdoch, in league with the current administration), MSNBC (General Electric owns it - profit is the bottom line), CNN (Turner owns it, but found that changing to Fox's way of doing things - showing more talk shows and less real news - gets it more viewers and thus advertising revenue), and BBC America (which most people over here don't watch anyway). No news = uninformed viewers = less resistance to everything.
We've been screwed since before King George Bush II got into power, because our news "services" have been giving us crap. All we hear is crap like Brangelina, Britney Spears and American Idol (Idolaters, anyone?). We don't hear a damn thing about countries in South America, or Africa, or Australia, or even the old countries of the former Soviet Union. You have to go to their web sites, or Reuters, for any news from those areas of the world. In short, we're in the equivalent of a news blackout from WWII. The US corporations are using this to do whatever the hell they want (Enron was just the first to get caught). When the Democrats win this year, at least some of the crap will be uncovered (specifically, the stuff tied to the Republicans). That will wake people up, and maybe, just maybe, some independent, brave news reporters will go digging even further. So far, this is the only place I even heard of an ISP over here thinking of using Phorm (and this is a British website). That shows you just how deep in crap we are over here. I worry that you guys in the UK are just a test platform for Big Brother projects that will eventually be implemented over here. After all, your hackable passports found their way over here, despite all the hooplah...and none of our "news" agencies said a damn thing. Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidences anymore, not after the past 15 years.
Call me naive, but I'm hoping that our (newly Democratic) government will open the floodgates and show the world what King George Bush II (and Uncle Clinton) did to us all. They need to. The alternative is the destruction of both our democracies.
Ironically, none of the people who could do anything over here will ever read this.
Well, our elected officials probably run phorm anyway, or have seats on the board, or get "election expenses" from various companies deeply mired in the biz.
I'd guess its not just the user that's interested in this...
Actually, I expect the noise to come from the web providers. If I go to a commercial web page that provides me with information I expect that the page's surface area will be about 40% advertising. Its what pays for the website. If a company such as NebuAd (or Phorm) hijacks any of that space or interferes with the customer tracking information then they are effectively stealing off that web page provider.
This is one part of the equation that's not been talked about much. In the US at least interfering with a company's legitimate revenue stream (by violating the fine print of its 'terms of service', I bet) is likely to lead to a lawsuit. This could get interesting, although personally if it came down to a battle between NebuAd and Google I wouldn't rate NebuAd's chances much (especially as the punters are going to be cheering for Google in this one).
rather quiet response - I wonder why
I had to go down to the cellar.
That's probably the display department.
With a torch
The lights had probably gone
So had the stairs
@AC re: 7 months from now
"...wait until about 7 months from now, when the Democrats win big in the US elections and the full scope of our government's spying on its own citizens is revealed to the public. It'll make Phorm and its ISP-sniffer cronies look like kiddie code..."
P'wahh ha ha ha hah. Good friggin' luck. The friggin' Democraps are IN on this shit. They voted for the escalation of the war in Iraq, and to reauthorize USA PATRIOT. Don't hold your breath. And as far as the destruction of our "democracy", screw it; that happened long ago.
Re: media: My wife and I used to watch BBC America more often than now, when they were first on -- when the only "makeover show" they ran was "Ground Force" (the wife's the avid gardener, I just had a crush on Charlie Dimmock), when they were still running "Red Dwarf" and old Monty Python episodes, and the morning news actually carried stories of importance from outside the USA reported as proper news and crap like the Michael Jackson trial got all of two minutes towards the end of the program(me).
Nowadays, BBC America is almost nothing but imitations of US detective dramas, makeover shows galore and at least half a dozen shows which somehow involve auctioning peoples' old stuff ("Welcome to another edition of Exhumation Extra, the programme where we dig up your loved ones' remains and sell them at auction!"). What really bugs me is the deterioration of their news telecasts; they've apparently gone the US route and hired anchors who look like journalists but actually aren't. The bus shelters in our city (Washington DC) are saturated with billboards advertising the BBC's morning news on BBC America, featuring a dramatic portrait of one of the anchors, a guy who looks like he was picked for his intensely serious look but in fact looks as if he has indigestion.
(So, look; is this just BBC America, or has the real, actual BBC itself gotten this bad as well?)
Do IT Yourself
"Lord Drayson - the recently ousted MoD procurement minister."
Recently ousted? I thought Lord Drayson just left to play with his toys.
The MOD could always use their Intelligence Services to Generate and Divert and ReDirect Wealth in the Money Markets. How hard would it be for them to Create/MPort a Stealth Proxy ZerodDay Trader Sharing Lead Information?
I rather like phorm
Especially the kinky stuff.
*cue 'The Doors'*
This could be the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it.
@ AC - You think Phorm's bad...
Mate, nicely said. When visiting the US a few years back, I gave up trying to get any *real* news on the TV there. It was all either local (US only) stuff, or mindless fluff. But having said that, it's not just the US. It's happening in a lot of other Western countries as well, as they all feed off the same teet. Please don't think I am US-bashing here, either. Hell, I can even appreciate why some Americans are quite ignorant about international affairs, when it's not that easy for them to get access to unbiased international (or local!) news without a lot of effort and searching on their part.
Australia is probably one of the worst, but then I can see Oz becoming the 53rd (or whatever) US state, in my lifetime.
The difference is due to the British experience.
I suspect that people and the press in the USA are currently not making much fuss about the “Phorm” type tactics, because they, (unlike us Brits) have not previously been subjected to ten years of the police state.
Our government has progressively introduced more and more of the instruments of surveillance, usually on the basis of "our safety". Many people, said and still do, something along the lines of "I have nothing to hide, so why should it concern me", when they introduced SEESEETEEVEE, ANPR, DNA, and the burgeoning EU inspired (and UK government gold-plated) ID card initiative etc. etc., but sooner or later, as in NAZI Germany and communist eastern Europe, EVERYONE has something to hide.
I signed up to Virgin's cable services, and promptly left them (three days later!), when I read in “The Register” of their plans to get into bed with Phorm, which is a great pity, because they seem to have the monopoly on high-speed internet connection. I took the view that a clunky ADSL connection that is not subject to download limits, traffic shaping and Phorm tactics, is not only preferable, it is a statement that I am not going to support an unholy alliance between the forces of big business and big government.
I urge any current user of BT, Virgin, Talk-Talk and any other similarly minded ISP to do likewise.
Nope, it's the BBC as a whole. Reality shows, reality shows, reality shows, followed by a "best of the week's reality shows". I can actually feel my IQ dropping everytime I watch one of them. BBC does make a few good shows, but they're so few and far between as to make no difference. To paraphrase Bill Hicks "Go back to bed Britain, your government is in control. Here, here's 'strictly come dancing', watch this, shut up."
Paris, cuz she's no stranger to "reality tv"
Show me the money
A lot of people are rightly up in arms about the invasion of privacy posed by Phorm. But I bet most of those people would quickly drop their objections if their ISP offered them a discount on their monthly connection charge for opting into Phorm. Deep down I think it's all about money and consumers would be happy to compromise their principles for a couple of dollars a month.
@AC RE: SO tell me what is the UK government doing about Phorm ??
This governement wasn't elected. People voted for Blair not Brown, and no leadership run off was done making him unelected in all instances.
Also this country has such a low turn out for voting that you can hardly say the masses voted for anyone.
And GWB was voted in under very dubious circunstances in both of his elections, and both regarding florida and who could vote. Also religion plays a heavy part in the bible belt where he is loved, so politics takes second chair.
You are right. Britain is a surveillance state with the biggest CCTV coverage and no laws governing them that anyone listens to. (did you watch dom jollys TV show on CCTV... the DPA is a farce) and the three new clauses in the anti terrorist bill that is going through will make it worse.
But as our country doesn't care either it's all the same.
safety, ISPs, and protection
...Just wear condom and gloves.
*cue 'The Doors'* .....and Open all Windows. Letting the Sun In.
"This could be the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it." .... By Gerrit Tijhof Posted Monday 19th May 2008 04:33 GMT
Although probably more likely the end of the beginning of the internet as we know it.
No news coverage...
At this point the potential problems of NebuAd are still somewhat speculative, which makes it harder for mainstream "news" to cover. They're more likely to target concrete stories like earthquakes in China, Myanmar/Burma, Iraq, etc. This kind of investigative story is more apropos for the news magazine shows. But since the anchors of those shows are old and crusty, and the viewers are mostly old and crusty, as some have mentioned the topic may be hard for them to fully grasp.
Still, congressmen don't do anything helpful of their own volition - so some significant group of citizens must be raising a stink and pressuring them to act.
Not sure what you were watching (or why you'd be surprised that US news networks were covering, erm, US news), but next time feel free to try other outlets like the radio (just keep scanning till you find NPR) to fill your international cravings. We've also got the internet - you might find a story or two there...
I admit, I'm kind of curious about where you're at that you have regular access to unbiased TV...
elections, conspiracies, media, oz, Dr. Who
(quotes from different people)
"...in a country that elected GWB to office, you have to actually ask? The government hasn't told us it's bad, yet, and so the sheep are content, for now."
GWB and "elected" don't necessarily belong in the same sentence ;)
Many believe that most of the elections here in the U.S. are rigged and, while it's a nice warm fuzzy feeling to still be allowed to vote, it doesn't really make much difference as to who wins. The person who is 'supposed' to win the "election" will win, regardless of voter input.
In a way, given the [lack of] intelligence of some of the population, that might not be such a bad thing ;)
It will only continue to get more interesting with the new hackable electronic-voting machines.
"When the Democrats win this year"
Well, hmm, maybe... I kind of doubt that will happen, but if it does, it wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong :)
"We don't hear a damn thing about countries in South America, or Africa, or Australia, or even the old countries of the former Soviet Union. You have to go to their web sites, or Reuters, for any news from those areas of the world. In short, we're in the equivalent of a news blackout from WWII"
Pretty much, yeah, the blackout thing. What was it I heard a while back that the press was forbidden to show coffins coming back from over there someplace (one of those countries we're fighting in, can't remember which one). Some strange combination of a muzzling of the press, combined with the press only being concerned about *ratings* and not pissing off their advertisers so that they prefer to air happy-happy stuff so that no one has to deal with reality or get bummed out about stuff.
But then, "Americans" and "reality" maybe don't mesh too well anymore either, at least not since the 1960s, given that so many people here prefer to lose themselves in getting/staying high for as long as they can so that they don't have to worry about stuff anymore. And foreigners wonder why there's so much *crime* in the U.S., it's because too many people end up *stealing* everything in sight to support their drug addictions - something *ought* to be done about it, seems that the most powerful nation on earth *ought* to be able to stop the rampant crackhouses and meth labs everywhere and heroin addicts roaming the streets, but either it's not a priority or the officials aren't trying hard enough. Whatever the reason, it's a sad state of affairs.
"try other outlets like the radio"
If you're close to the Canadian border, a determined listener might be able to pick up the CBC on the AM dial at night, or from further away via "skip" on cold clear winter nights, when the CBC rebroadcasts various foreign radio shows from Africa, Radio Sweden, Germany, the BBC, Czech republic, etc. Last I checked (it's been a year or so, now) they did that starting at like 1:00 a.m. or so, going for several hours, but if you're any distance aways you have to have a really topnotch radio like one of those expensive CCrane radios w/external antenna. The majority of U.S. citizens don't have access to that sort of thing, or don't even know about it in the first place, so it's not exactly a mainstream option (I discovered it by accident when I was in one of my several "no-TV" modes, looking for something other than late-night conspiracy-theory stuff or sports, on the radio dial).
As to NPR, I gave up on NPR a long time ago; it seems geared to wealthy people or something. It's hard for me to identify with a lot of the stuff they talk about on NPR, and some of their eastern-US accents are annoying at times, like that one lady (can't remember her name) whose voice constantly goes way uppppp in pitch, and then two words later her voice goes way doowwwwwwwnnnnn, high then low, high/low, repeat 500x in 3 minutes and it makes me want to throw the damn radio across the room. No it's not the radio, it's her. Damn annoying.
"I can see Oz becoming the 53rd (or whatever) US state, in my lifetime."
Wait, I thought it was *already* ... ;)
I don't get that channel, but I watch a lot of Dr. Who and I have a mad secret crush on Tom Baker - he has/had cool hair and I like his voice, so does that count? ;)
Aha! A cross link?
I couldn't see a comment link on http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/19/firefox_data_snoop/
so it seems easier to post a comment here.
Any application free or otherwise that has a datamining process or procedures attached to it should be accompanied by a government type warning along lines of: using this XYZ allows us to record and extract data that we will sell to interested parties. Using XYZ requires you to allow and permit us to observe, record, datamine and sell your recorded preferences. You now need to tick this box to confirm transference of those rights to us> Should you not confer those rights to us you will:
(a) not be able to use XYZ
(b) use XYZ at the following usage charges...