Here on The Shelf I don’t usually make a point of linking to video elsewhere on the interwebs, but today, on topic of something that I will be looking more closely at over the next coupled of weeks, I thought it worth pointing out this interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Dubbed the ‘creator of the web’ Sir Tim gives his opinions on systems which track user activity such as Phorm, with the intention of using the information gained through user tracking to target personalised adverts.
The interview on the BBC news site is available here.
In the video he explains that that he does not want such systems to track the websites that he has visited, using an example of health insurance companies putting up premiums on the basis of visiting caner related sites.
“I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that’s not going to get to my insurance company and I’m going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5% because they’ve figured I’m looking at those books,”
He also makes explain his ideas of a truly collaborative web when it was first invented which we are now beginning to see the tip of with blogging sites, wikiepedia type collaboration and the sudden growth of social networking on the web.
He goes on to say that although we need a greater understanding in the fact that any content we display is displayed in a public space, we also as consumers should be protected as essentially any given persons we history belong to them. Why should ISP have free access to our personal trends in order to sell this information off to advertisers?
On a persons web history he says “It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return.”
The Phorm system that is being discussed in the video has responded stating that it actually makes the web a safer place, offering increased protection against phishing sites.
“We believe Phorm makes the internet a more vibrant and interesting place. Phorm protects personal privacy and unlike the hundreds of other cookies on your PC, it comes with an on/off switch.”
Talk Talk are one ISP to adopt the service although customers will have to opt in to it, meaning by default the average user who may not understand the repercussions such a system could have will be protected. BT a Virgin are also signed up to the service but will put these users at risk by offering an opt out only service.