One campaigning point regarding the vile Phorm deep packet inspection system has been to suggest to major websites that they consider whether they should request that Phorm do not spy on their visitors. In recent months, some big players in the internet have done just that – Amazon and Wikipedia are two stand-out examples.

Since the BBC run one of the most visited sites in the internet, a number of people have written to enquire whether the BBC might do the same (and of course at a slightly more trivial level, the BT-Phorm system is branded BT-WebWise – very similar naming to the BBC’s entirely different Webwise).

The indefatigable Alex Hanff has written about a recent FOI request made to the BBC (BBC on Phorm – FOI Response).  The BBC’s response is lengthy, and does indicate that the BBC is unhappy with the Phorm system.  Unfortunately the BBC is in cahoots with the behavioural ad targeters Audience Science (at least for overseas visitors), and it has to be said that the BBC doesn’t have a stellar track record when it comes to protecting the privacy of visitors to its websites (BBC to stop using Omniture to track UK visitors).  As Alex says in his article:

The BBC should simply do what is the right thing to do (as illustrated in the FOI request documents) and that is to Opt-Out of allowing Phorm to profile their web users activities.  Quite aside from the privacy concerns, the BBC charter states that the BBC must make their decisions after considering how those decisions will impact the market and public, particularly with regards to innovation and competition.  For the BBC to allow Phorm to profile their users activities, the BBC will be allowing Phorm unprecedented access not only to web behaviour but also to viewing habits (via iPlayer usage), political and religious opinion (via news) and a whole host of other sensitive data which can be inferred from the BBC services the general public choose to use on a day to day basis.  This is incredibly dangerous and gives a single company access to a quantity of data that has never been aggregated at such a level before now.

 In relation to this FOI request, there’s an interesting blog article at the BBC – snappily entitled “Interesting Stuff 2009-05-22: BBC & Phorm FOI Request“.