If someone who wasn’t your ISP did this, it would be a felony

How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection | The Register:

For users who don’t opt out, the way the system works is much more clear (see “Active mode” slide). Hit a link in your browser and the HTTP request will be intercepted by the ACE and rerouted to Phorm’s Anonymiser. Having hijacked the request, the Anonymiser can then set a tracking cookie, which it keeps hold of. Without a response, the browser resubmits its request for the web page you want to visit. It is again rerouted to Phorm, but only as far as the F5 hardware, which bounces it on to the website you originally wanted, but also sends a copy of the request to Phorm’s profiler kit. The website reruns the content you want, which is again intercepted by the ACE. A copy of the page contents is sent to the Profiler, this time with the cookie in tow. If the publisher of the page is a member of the OIX, keywords in the page can be used to target ads. Finally the page is served up on your screen, and if everything is worked correctly, the browser and the user should be none the wiser.

Interception and blockage of communications by a third party, modification of communications between other parties for profit, all without effective notice or consent. Good thing it’s just big companies we trust implicitly doing this kind of stuff.

Broadband big boys waiting on data pimping | The Register:

Phorm, the advertising company that wants to pay your ISP to hand over information on which websites you visit, has convinced the UK’s three largest providers to trust it, but regulators and the rest of the industry are less impressed. Phorm’s deals already mean it has already snagged more than ten million streams of UK users’ browsing information. Its remaining targets are surely Tiscali, Sky and Orange, who complete the six members of the UK broadband millionaires’ club, which controls more than 95 per cent of the market. Tiscali, which has more than two million broadband customers, told The Register it has looked into Phorm’s system, but no decisions have been made. Meanwhile a spokesman for Sky, the UK’s fastest growing broadband network with about 1.2 million lines, said: “Sky is interested in exploring the potential for targeted online advertising and is talking with a number of companies operating in this area.

By the way, at first glance it looks as if this thing could be a serious single point of failure for any broadband network that installs it, because if the ACE box fails, users’ requests go into a black hole. And the load on the ACE box rises pretty rapidly with the percentage of sites in the ad network and the percentage of users looking at them. So the ISPs had better hope that not too many sites sign up with Phorm for targeted ads, and that their users don’t visit those sites too often.

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