Recently there has been a lot of focus on the issue of privacy for internet users. It is, in fairness, never far from the headlines.
Most prominent amongst the stories is the problems faced by Phorm. Publicity for the company has never been particularly positive however last week things took a turn for the worse for it's UK market as both BT and TalkTalk announced a withdrawn of support for the controversial system.
TalkTalk have pulled out fo their agreement entirely whilst BT say that it will now an opt-in system as opossed to opt-out. The news caused a large dip in Phorm's share price.
Earlier in the year both Amazon and the UK Goverment blocked Phorm from accessing their pages to protext their user's privacy because the system would be able to use their web history in order to build up picture of a person's browsing habits in order produce a targeted advertising profile. The value of such data is clear and the advantages to advertisers are undeniable but, despite assurances from Phorm that the data collected will be anonymous and will not be used to identify users, the system opens up a debate about how mauch anoymity a user should have online.
This week internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee has spoken out warning against internet monitoring and censorship. He said "When you use the internet it is important that the medium should not be set up with constraints," He hilighted the difficult balance between effective policing of the net and a "Big brother" style approach to online control "The canvas should be blank, While governments do need some powers to police unacceptable uses of the web limits should be placed on these powers" he said.
Sir Tim has spoken out before about systems such as Phorm saying "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."
"There will be a huge commercial pressure to release this data," he said. "I feel that it should just not be collected."
With more and more sites and ISPs backing out of allowing Phorm to access their traffic it appears that a backlash against such monitoring is underway.