Phorm; good or bad form?

March 17, 2008

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has come out as against the planned Phorm advert and tracking network today (more here from the BBC).

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that leading ISP’s were planning to use Phorm as a platform to serve up targeted adverts to ISP registrants. It’s been touted as a great way to provide more relevant ads to users and all the initial talk seemed like PR spin designed to mask any potential privacy issues.

Now at last the privacy issues are getting a good airing!

Personally I’m against my ISP using the data of my surfing habits for advertising purposes. I use my ISP for access to the internet, I do not expect them to share my data on surfing habits with anyone (unless asked to by the authorities…).

Other blogs are asking what the fuss is about this and comparing Phorm to behavioral targeting technologies in use on retail websites. I disagree with this completely as this is going to collect data at the ISP level and share it with any websites which serve adverts through Phorm, this makes it far more pervasive.

An interesting question has to be asked though; how does this differ to Google / Doubleclick? If Google starts to share behavioral search data with Doubleclicks ad serving platform isn’t that going to be similarly invasive to users privacy? Potentially; although at least we expect that from Google as an ad revenue based business…

Interestingly, the BBC has just published a story that states that the Foundation for Information Policy Research has claimed that Phorm could well be illegal. They believe Phorm contravenes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which protects users from unlawful interception of information.

This has the potential to get very interesting and could open up other networks and ad serving technologies to scrutiny.


Looks like Google may get it’s way and finally secure the acquisition of DoubleClick.

Will be interesting to see how this is handled and exactly what Google does to integrate tools and workforce when (if) if goes through!

But nearly…

Google has come in for the year at £1.3B of ad revenue from the UK alone. Estimates say that the TV channel ITV1 will come in at around £1.32B plus some £100M in sponsorship.

This is still pretty awesome from Google and they should take the lead next year as mobile expands and advertising moves to other platforms (and if they ever get DoubleClick properly into the fold).

More from the Guardian.

The IDC have announced that the market for U.S. internet advertising grew by a massive 27% in 2007.

Interestingly though, while Google grew by 40% year on year in Q4 that was down on their growth a year earlier. That made their market share slip by 0.5%, but they do still own over 23% of the market. Something to do with the coming saturation of search marketing perhaps?

IDC says a merged Microsoft-Yahoo would command 17% of the U.S. online ad market, so still not enough to topple Google from the top spot.

One wonders if the figures for Google include DoubleClick yet??

This just in…

After my post earlier today about the murmurs that Google would get DoubleClick approval I can now inform you that it’s happened!

That was quick! The FTC voted 4-1 in favour of the deal and concluded that the deal would not substantially lessen competition.

Well done Google! Look forward to seeing the first development come out of this partnership!

Google to get DoubleClick??

December 20, 2007

Bloomberg are reporting that Google may well get what it wants and secure the DoubleClick acquisition it’s been looking for.

About time too! It’s been going on for far too long now, it makes sense to just get it over with, there are far bigger threats to our online privacy than this merger. Every other major player has managed to buy an advertising network this year, so why not Google too?

This is coming too late for some though. Viacom have just signed a deal to move over to Microsoft, away from DoubleClick. Perhaps they would have stayed if Google had the reigns?

The European Union regulators have said they will be thoroughly investigating the Google DoubleClick deal after their preliminary investigations found that the deal could raise competition concerns. A deadline of 2nd April 2008 has been set to make a final recommendation.

Google has said it will work with the Commission to demonstrate the value a deal like this will give to publishers and advertisers alike.

With all the other deals happening in online advertising I’m beginning to think they should just let this deal go through. Every major internet player has had a deal go through with an ad network apart from Google, and with the likes of Facebook now launching advertising networks it is actually beginning to feel like Google is the one being hurt by this being stalled for so long.

I wonder whether Google might pull out of the deal if they can get OpenSocial moving quickly and use the demographic, social and behavioural data that they will garner from it to create their own network (or extend Adwords/Adsense)?