One of the more bizarre features of the Phorm business model has always been the question of why businesses would allow their webpages to be scanned by Phorm’s deep packet inspection system. My understanding of Phorm’s system is that individual web users’ browsing habits are monitored by kit installed within the ISP’s infrstructure, and that key words are extracted from visited web pages and used to target advertisements to the user.
What’s always surprised me is that companies weren’t flocking to request their exclusion from this system: after all if web users are looking through my product line, why would I want them to be offered adverts from my competitors?
A couple of days ago, a posting in the excellent nodpi forum revealed that the Nationwide Building Society had decided to request their websites be excluded (Nationwide Building Society opts out of Phorm). Nationwide are reported as saying:
“We have had discussions with our online advertising agency on Phorm and as a result of this review we have decided to contact Phorm and ask them not to scan the Nationwide website. Investigating the service that they are looking to offer, we do not see the benefit to our customers or to us of allowing them to scan the Nationwide website in this way. We will be getting in touch with Phorm over the next few days, though we are unfortunately unable to confirm how long it will take for them to action our request.”
This isn’t some kind of knee-jerk reaction, this response follows a detailed evaluation of the Phorm DPI-BTA system. One hopes that this response will be echoed by more in the coming months.