Wikipedia Declines Phorm's Invitation; Opts-Out of Controversial Advertising System

Online Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has opted out of Phorm's behavioural ad targeting, user tracking scheme, a few days after Amazon chose to do so.

The site, which is the 7th most visited website in the world (and the 10th most visited in the UK), announced the decision via a short post on the Wikimedia Technical Blog saying that, "After some internal discussion on whether opting out of the Phorm user-profiling system in the UK would legitimize it, we’re going ahead and requesting an opt-out for all the domains under the Wikimedia Foundation’s control".

Afterwards, an email was sent by Wikimedia's chief technology officer Brion Vibber to Phorm asking for domains controlled by Wikimedia to be opted out of Phorm altogether. Vibber supported the decision saying that "We consider the scanning and profiling of our visitors' behavior by a third party to be an infringement on their privacy".

Phormaverse, a commentator on the original blog, rightly pointed though that the opt-out only applies to BT Webwise and that there may be others, including a variety of other Internet service providers like Talktalk and Virgin Media, which could adopt Phorm or similar tracking and profiling services.

According to the automated response sent to Wikimedia, the opt-out process is likely to take at least 48 hours, which is not a problem, given that BT has yet to decide when it will be implementing Phorm anyway.

Wikipedia is the second high profile company on the list of major tech firms contacted by Open Rights Group to opt-out from Phorm's behavioural scheme.

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Our Comments

If four or five other high profiles websites decide to opt out of Webwise, the whole scheme would be in big trouble. But Phorm could come up with a rather cunning plan by licensing its ad tracking technology to as many companies as possible which would make opting out much, much more difficult. Nevertheless, things have turned a bit more difficult for Phorm.

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