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URL Scanning Lands Talktalk In Trouble With ICO

UK's biggest consumer ISP has been lambasted by the Information Commissioner's Office after it carried out an anti-malware test in which it logged websites its customers visited online without informing them.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, wrote to Talktalk to tell the company that it was wrong for Talktalk to proceed with the test without first telling its customers.

He added that "I should be grateful if you could inform me as to the reasons why the trial was conducted without first informing customers, in particular how such a trial was in compliance with the relevant legislation."

The criticisms reminded us of the backlash that BT attracted when it tried to roll out a similar feature, marketing it as one that would protect customers from malware.

Mark Schmid, director of communication at Talktalk, said that the system did not look at customer behaviour, something that Phorm did actively, and instead focused on the URLs that were being accessed through Talktalk's network.

Worryingly, more than 75000 websites were found to contain malware during the trial version. Talktalk has already confirmed that it will roll out the anti-malware system by the end of the year, regardless of the ICO intervention.

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.