We lied with the best of intentions

BT confesses lies over secret Phorm experiments | The Register

BT has admitted that it secretly used customer data to test Phorm’s advertising targeting technology last summer, and that it covered it up when customers and The Register raised questions over the suspicious redirects.

The national telecoms provider now faces legal action from customers who are angry their web traffic was compromised.

In general, if you think what you’re doing is OK and your customer won’t object, you don’t keep it secret or lie about it.

Meanwhile, this BBC story suggests that Phorm may have entirely the wrong architecture:

“Information from websites and queries regarding sexual content, political preferences, medical health, racial origin should be blocked from processing.

If they’re relying on some kind of blacklist to keep from processing the wrong kinds of data, they’re always going to be on the wrong side of privacy law, because there will always be new sites popping up, new combinations of search queries and so forth, and the blacklist can never be updated quickly enough. The right way to do this would be to have a whitelist, and only collect data involving those sites (and after opt-in from the user). But that would mostly make the service useless, because the whole point is collecting data about as many different sites and queries as possible until someone says “no more.”

Whee.

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