BT presses ahead with behaviour-based ad-serving trials

BT's plans to test an online advertising delivery service based on customers'...

BT's plans to test an online advertising delivery service based on customers' use of the internet is likely to go ahead "within weeks" despite a protest at the telco's AGM yesterday.

BT Retail chief Gavin Patterson said he was thinking of publishing the results of market research that he said showed 96% of consumers were happy with the service.

Patterson said the advertisement serving service, BT Webwise, would deliver only targeted adverts and protect customers against trips to fraudulent websites. He said only customers who opted in to the service would be affected.

BT Webwise uses AIM-listed Phorm's behavioural profiling system. The Information Commissioner's Office has cleared the system on condition that users are asked clearly to opt in or out of the service.

Protesters said BT had conducted at least two secret trials, in 2006 and 2007, that involved up to 350,000 customers, a figure BT did not deny at the AGM.

They said Phorm would not confirm who opts in, nor who uses the IP address to surf the internet. As a result, the system would profile children who searched the web for homework material, they said.

Phorm CEO Kent Ertugrul said the company had adopted recommendations from people who had "scrutinised our technology and suggested policies that will further our principles of openness and privacy by design".

"We now exclude over a thousand webmail sites from being processed rather than the largest 25," he said. This followed feedback from an unprecedented "town hall meeting" where Phorm publicly defended its approach.

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