Major ISPs mulling behaviour-based advertising

Interesting to see that plans by three of the UK's major ISPs, BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to "offer" behaviour-based targeted advertising - as happens now on Facebook - to punters may be illegal under the Data Protection Act.

The ISP's gameplan is to use an application from Phorm to generate the ads and, not unexpectedly, the plan has caused quite a stir amongst the Internet cognoscenti.

Such a storm, in fact, that the FIPR - the Foundation for Information Policy Research - has sent an open letter to the Information Commissioner's Office questioning the legality of the use of the Phorm

software.

The ISPs, for their part, have responded by pointing out that the data collated by Phorm is effectively anonymous, meaning that the advertiser is unaware who is being targeted.

The FIPR reckons that, unless punters have opted in to the program, the targeted advertising could be well illegal, since it analyses their entire Internet behaviour, rather than just their Web surfing.

The ICO - unsurprisingly - says it is looking at the issues involved and will make a decision on whether to investigate the software in due course.

I suspect that the ICO may well come down against Phorm, but I reckon that, if this happens, the ISPs may well change tack and start offering discounts for punters that agree to the program.

This could get interesting...