back to article American data pimper exposes ad equation

How much notice did American ISPs provide when testing NebuAd's Phorm-like behavioral ad targeter? Not as much as NebuAd CEO Bob Dykes would have you believe. Responding to an open letter from three big-name US Congressman, Middle American ISP Embarq Corp. has admitted that before activating NebuAd's deep packet inspection …


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  1. Alan Donaly

    I will have to ask

    some that I know that live there if they know about it it's about nine miles from here it's a tiny place though so most people come into this area or Kansas City to work. I haven't heard anybody yelling or screaming about it yet but trust me if they find out about it they will.

    The boffin because thats what what they all look like.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I'm still trying to see the difference

    offering product advertisement based on deep packet inspection, and a bloke in a pub eavesdropping and then trying to sell me stuff.

    Guess my brain's not highly enough trained...

  3. Florence Stanfield

    Wish UK governement would do the same for us.

    Sad to say we seem to have a governement in panic they just seem to want to spy, father data which they often lose on cd, laptops blackberries all in tha name of terrorisum. Seems they are not protecting the british public from anything just making us all terrorists while British Telecom pimp our clicks..

    Good to see some working for their people and not hiding in offices saying it is all ok we are the ones paraniod.... Gordon Brown is the one that is Paraniod he is scared of his own shadow by the way he is dealing with BT, British public and demands on retaining as much data on us as he can..

    You guys in America are lucky seems congress care about your Data more than our Governement.

  4. Peter Gold badge

    Breach of computer access laws

    Given that such data is collected without consent I would assume a case against these people for illegal access and use of computer solutions is likely to stand up. The shenanigans with the government are simply a way to take the eye off the potential for individuals to go after this mob with class action.

    Having said that, IANAL. But the door appears to be open rather wide..

  5. John


    The cynic in me says the reason the opt-out is obfuscated is because, if they knew about it, who would choose to have their browsing habits inspected in this way? What's in it for the user? Unless they pay me, they're not data mining my online activity.

    Also, might be a cause for marital discontent if all the ads on a shared computer suddenly start trying to sell services from the seedier side of the net, based on the clandestine browsing of one party.

  6. zedee
    Thumb Down

    I don't understand their tactics

    Every Telco I've worked with buys hardware, software, and services from vendors to achieve operational goals.

    Want to make advertising money from users without a third party?

    Buy Phorm servers and software. Send your own users/admins on training courses at Phorm on how to use it, or 'temporary headhunt'/sabbatical some Phorm staff. Instant removal of the third party problem because they're now part of your company.

    Buy Phorm services in the form of advertising configurations.

    Pay Phorm as a percentage of profits, just like they were expecting

    It's all in how the contract is written.

    Not saying that Telcos want to be seen to be doing this, but they are already seen to be doing this, and via a third party too.

    Wish they'd all suffer some unpleaseant ilnesses though.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good morning, Alan.

    Do you want to borrow some of these?

    ........... ,,,,,,,,,,,,, ----------- ;;;;;;;;;;;;

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    new trends...

    "Embarq says it conducted its very own legal analysis of the situation, and the company has no doubt that an opt-out is enough."

    .. is there a tangible point in the size of a company where laws become something that are decided by the companies own legal dept. (Looking at you BT!).

  9. Toastan Buttar

    Update to 5,000 word Privacy Policy

    Sounds a lot like...

    The plans were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Neil Barnes

    It's different because you can suggest to the eavesdropping nerk that he should naff-off and keep your mouth shut until he does.

    A better anaolgy would be having to conduct all your conversations with your mate through said nerk regardless of whether he is offering to sell you anything.

  11. Dan White

    @Neil Barnes

    The difference is that a Pub is by definition a *Public* house, so you can reasonably expect your conversation to be overheard.

    Your telephone line and Internet connection is not only considered private, but there are legal safeguards to stop people listening in on your communications.

    However, for some reason I can't fathom, some ISPs and Telco's seem to think that as long as they pretend/ensure that they don't know exactly who is on the phone, that makes it all right to listen in. Dozy fuckers...

  12. RW

    Said it before, say it again

    Getting a legal opinion about a proposed course of action means exactly nothing. Unless you take special precautions [*], lawyers tell you what they think you want to hear. After all, you're paying them and they're not such fools as to tell you things you don't want to hear. They are hired guns, nothing more.

    [*] Special precautions: waving a length of 2x4 at them sometimes works. "Tell me the truth, godammit, I don't want my ego stroked. Tell me what the judge and jury are likely to do, not what I'd like them to do." <wave> <wave> <wave> <smack>

    Footnote: how amazingly BOFHish one has to be!

  13. John Saunders

    Vehicle vs Payload

    It's easy to get distracted by the very real privacy concerns that Phorm, NebuAd, FISA ad nausem present. Similarly, it will be easy to doze when these privacy concerns are "addressed" by some perhaps well-meaning but certainly exposure-seeking Congresscritter.

    The real danger is the establishment of the permissibility of collection mechanisms, rather than the immediate abuse toward which a particular mechanism is applied, though that immediate abuse is dangerous enough.

    Recall the story of the bicycle smuggler. Collection mechanisms and their acceptability (bicycles) are what's being smuggled into the infrastructure while the vendors' rather narrow privacy abuses (smuggler) are what the Congresscritters, the press et. al. (border guard) are distracted by.

  14. Geoff Gale
    Thumb Down

    @Florence Stanfield

    While it might appear to the untrained eye that our CongressCritters™ are watching out for our privacy rights, do be a dear and keep in mind that it is an election year. Those selfsame CongressCritters™ have sold us out in favour of the motion picture industry, the recording industry, the telcos and virtually any other industry with deep pockets time and time again. They're only now posturing as champions of the the people because it behooves them to do so in the hopes that we'll all forget their past transgressions against us. Smoke and mirrors it is.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    So if I visit a website and the traffic passes through a network owned by these cretins they'll take it upon themselves to not only snoop on the packets but change the content of them to suit their needs. As in "You'll bloody well see the content we want you to see". Sounds to me like there's a copyright issue here...

    Paris 'cause she's used to being snooped at. And having content.

  16. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the prevailing industry practices"

    I am sure they did, since said industry practices mainly include screwing the customer as deeply as possible without any forewarning, then bringing up a lengthy, impossible-to-read pseudo-legal document if any complaints arise.

    Yeah, they certainly followed prevailing industry practices. I'm sure Al Capone did as well (as soon as he finished writing some new ones, that is).

    There are times when I really wish I had some C4 and knew how to use it. I'd show them what "opt-out" REALLY means !

  17. Dennis Healey
    Paris Hilton

    Question from the Ignorent

    I am not that enamoured by the likes of Phorm analysing my transactions and usage and I regard the back street way this is being introduced by the ISPs for their own gain as nothing less that a breach of trust.

    Can anyone tell me if they look in https streams? I guess the security in these is adequate, but you don't know until some Ignoramus asked the obvious question.

    Paris - cos she doesn't mind looking stupid!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opt-in is not sufficient

    In order for a Telco to be allowed to conduct deep packet inspection they should have to explain to each person involved all the risks and exactly what they will be able to see.

    How many would then voluntarily Opt-in if they had a real understanding of the ramifications?

    Those that then chose to Opt-in would at least know what was happening to their data.

  19. Anonymous from Mars
    Thumb Up


    Use their medicine against them.

    Put on your website's privacy policy that NebuAd / Phorm / etc. must first purchase a license of $5,000 per webpage accessed.

    Then, have one of your buddies from an opt-out locale view roughly 1,000 pages of your website.

    Finally, sue for $5,000,000.

    Problem solved. :D

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