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    Nobody pays me to write any of the copy on my blog, and should I ever have the good fortune that they do, I will declare it. My main employment is as the owner and principal of The Future Place consultancy. The Future Place provides two key services 1) training and services to industry and academic bodies and 2) consultancy services to companies. The details of the companies I work with are a private matter, but if I blog about any company who has paid The Future Place more than expenses recently (approx. two years) I will mention that they are a client. I hold equity in Virtual Surveys and provide consulting services to them from time to time. I am paid to run courses for a number of trade bodies and over the last few years clients have included ESOMAR, AMSRS, MRS, and MRIA.

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Phormcommms sock puppet... how can you possibly anonymise a huge block of data from the internet?

I recall asking you a while ago and you couldn't explain.

Suppose my surname is Hammer. And you find my name in a block of text. How are you going to filter that out. Or are you going to show me a DIY ads?

Suppose my first name is Rose. And you find my name in a block of text. Are you going to server me gardening centre ads? Or filter that out?

Now suppose the text I'm reading is French, German, Chinese, Spanish... Is your system so multilingual it can spot PII from all of those cultures, in all of those character sets?

What you are suggesting is so technically absurd its hard to find polite words. Its pure tripe. Its nonsense.

Webwise will unavoidably store and process PII. Its undeniable (but you keep denying it).

I'm not a Jackass

The Phorm Comm team have never answered the questions I have asked them on other Forums, all they ever do is utter the same diatribe.

"such as the the earth is flat, trust us, the earth is flat" !

Mike Gray

I'd be interested in Phorm's response to F-Secure's recent blog...

Ray Poynter

I am always glad to welcome debate. But I want to come back to the point about anonymity. When AOL released the search data, it was not IP addresses nor names entered as names that led to people being identified, it was the content and pattern of things that were searched for. For example, if I am a member of a local church I may search for it, I might look for related information. I might also play rugby and search for rugby related sites and visit my club's website plus others. By adding together these snippets of my life, such as the fact I am an elected councillor, you would soon arrive at me. This is what the New York Times did with Thelma Arnold.

There is also the issue of whether better targeted ads are, by themselves more intrusive, something that the Facebook beacon advertising fiasco turned up. For example, many home PCs are shared between two or more users, most of whom do not log on with different user IDs. Imagine the case were a husband is searching for a surprise Diamond wedding gift, the wife might be surprised to see a wide range of Diamond wedding gift adverts. Worse still, the husband could be search divorce lawyer sites!

Finally, there is the issue of ISPs already being paid for the service they provide. Most sensible people accept that website advertising allows many websites to be free at the point of use. However, I pay BT a large sum of money each month for broadband access - and it mostly works OK. I do not, therefore, expect them to monetise that relationship in different ways that do not benefit me. Indeed, if Phorm goes ahead, I will move my two BT accounts, and urge others to do likewise.

Phorm Comms Team

Hi there
I work on behalf of Phorm here in the UK - I am part of the comms team. While we welcome the healthy debate our system has encouraged, there are some points above that need clarification.

Firstly, let us be clear, the Webwise system does not store personally identifiable information. The AOL situation could not arise because our system does not store PII, so it cannot be lost, hacked or misused. This is in stark contrast to many search engines that store details such as IP addresses for over a year even BEFORE they are anonymised.
Secondly, this is not a system designed to increased either the number or the intrusivenss of ads - such a system would be counter-productive. Webwise is designed to make those ads that are shown to the user more relevant to that user. It works not by identifying a person but simply anonymous behaviours. It does not monitor 'what you do online' because we ignore names, email, even postcodes. Webwise is about making the ads that you experience as part of the Internet as relevant as possible, without compromising your privacy online.

If you want any further information, see or

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