For background to this article, see the related story about BT’s relationship with the targeted advertising company Phorm. Note in relation to the patent application that Phorm (under a different company name had form as a spyware distributor) . For more information check out the links in that story.

Thanks to a commenter at an El Reg article, the following snippets from the Phorm patent (which you can read at the Political Penguin blog) should be noted:

0042] As explained above, the context reader may be configured to more than just keyword and other contextual data pertaining to a given web page. The context reader may also include behavioral data (e.g, browsing behavior), other historical data collected over time, demographic data associated with the user, IP address, URL data, etc.

This gives a pretty clear indication of where this technology is headed. And, I guess, why we might not expect the UK Government to take much notice of this proposed intrusive surveillance technique. The following section also indicates future “tweaks” to the system:

0027] Context reader 40 is not limited to acquiring keyword or other contextual information pertaining to a given web page. Indeed, the browsing information may be collected so as to also include historical data pertaining to the browsing performed with device 10. According to one example, context reader 40 writes browsing information to a local storage/memory location 50 of device 10, for example by setting or updating an HTTP cookie 52. Such use of locally updated data may enable collection and use of browsing information for multiple web pages requested by the user. Accordingly, selection of targeted advertising content may be based on historical data, including historical data pertaining to any of the keyword or other data referenced above, patterns of repetition associated with browsing behavior, user preferences, etc.

Personally, this adds weight to my belief that BT, Virgin media and Carphone Warehouse (aka TalkTalk) are behaving shabbily and dishonestly here, and that UK ISPs should have nothing to do with Phorm.