If you’re a customer of Virgin Media, BT or TalkTalk, please read this entire post, especially the parts about Phorm
Despite the fact that I pay a fairly high monthly charge (compared to most other UK ISPs) for my internet service, Virgin are announcing plans to cap the available bandwidth from their customers to some high-bandwidth websites. Unless those websites pay for the Privilege of serving VM’s customers unhindered.
Unfortunately the cost of changing ISP is quite high, as I’ll have to get the old BT line reactivated, and replace my wireless router too (I won’t be using BT as my ISP, and they are also planning a Phorm implementation) – but if it’s a choice between spending that money up-front, then paying less monthly (admittedly for a slower service) , or staying with an ISP that wants to profile every move I make on the web (and in any app which uses “the web” in the background, say, iTunes for example) for serving me targeted advertising revenue, and limit the bandwidth available to the kind of services which are designed to be used over broadband, I know what I’m going to do.
Back to Phorm…
I know the “official line” on Phorm is that it’s an anti-spyware/phishing type service – but I don’t need one of those from my ISP – and I’m certainly not willing to let VM profile my entire use of the internet when I alerady have an anti-spyware tool installed on my PC, which I have control over.
The way I see it – I pay VM for my phone and internet use – they are welcome to track what number I call (they need to in order to bill me), and which website I visit (again, I know this will happen in logs on the servers anyway – but the data isn’t used for anything) – they are not welcome to process that information (and the content of the pages I view/phone calls I make) to establish what I’m actually reading, and use sell that data for advertising.
Imagine if they did the same on the phone service – they’d listen on every phone call you make, and you’d get telemarketing calls like “You’ve been talking to your family on the phone about buying a new car from X- so we’d like to invite you to make an appointment to visit a Y dealership for a test drive of our new vehicle”.
What VM (and the other Phorm ISP partners) are proposing is to do exactly that with your web browsing activity. Listen in on you web browsing, and serve adverts targeted with that data in mind.
The bottom line is that if you’re a VM customer (or BT, or TalkTalk), you need to be aware of what they’re planning to do, and make a decision whether you want to stay with an ISP who wants to track your every move so they can serve targeted adverts to you based on websites you visit, and then cap your usage of high-bandwidth services.
There is a petition on the Prime Minister website about this – if you’re at all concerned about this, sign it.