Peter Bazalgette's apologia for dangerous new internet tracking technologies fails to realise that, without privacy protection, our economy will sufferby Becky Hogge / November 23, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
What did you do when last on the net? Perhaps you emailed a client a confidential quote? Or contributed pseudonymously on a web forum? Or, more in keeping with the times, anonymously uploaded to a whistle-blowing website copies of the $450,000 bill run up by executives of AIG? If you did, Peter Bazalgette isn’t interested. He sees the internet as a giant shopping mall, which is a shame. Yes, the net has revolutionised commerce over the last decade. But daily communications, and even civic engagement, all now take place online. What we do over our internet connections reveals more about us than any other activity.
Mistaking the biggest innovation in communications technology since the Gutenburg press for a high street shopping parade is just the first error in Bazalgette’s ill-informed apologia for Phorm—the dangerous new behavioural tracking technology currently being trialled by the UK’s biggest internet service provider (ISP), BT. Much of what Bazalgette writes about the advertising industry—that it currently funds much media production and may fund more, that it aspires to engage consumers using increasingly integrated and fine-grained targeting techniques—represents an uncomfortable reality that most normal people have grudgingly learnt to live with. It may come as a surprise to Bazalgette to find out that, as the head of one of the privacy campaigns he namechecks, the Open Rights Group, I believe that people should be free to choose what relationships they establish with media outlets or corporate brands. And this should include how much they wish to reveal about their everyday lives.
And this is just the point. Phorm subverts these crucial, commercial relationships between businesses and their customers. It works by dialling directly into your ISP’s…