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Phorm launches data pimping fight back

CEO Kent Ertegrul on spyware, bullshit and opting-out

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The Golden Child

I don't think it's a privacy story per se.

KE: It is actually a privacy story. But it's not the privacy story you think it is.

I don't think it's a privacy story.

KE: The privacy story that it is is about how you can run an advertising service and store nothing. Look at what's happening with Google and the debate about storing stuff for a year or two - we've come up with a way of storing nothing! If you're concerned about privacy this is the best thing that's happened. There's no data mine here.

When we've been to see the EU and the Information Commissioner's Office what we've said to them is "look, this is how we do it". They actually welcome it because it gives them an example of how you can actually not store data and improve privacy.

Like I say, I don't actually think it's a privacy story as such - like you say Google stores masses of data. But a big difference I see between what you're doing and what Google does is that people feel that they're getting a service from Google. I don't think people feel they'll be getting a service from you.

KE: When you actually poll people and you say to them "what are the things that irritate you most about the internet?" they'll say two things: being bombarded with the amount of irrelevant advertising, and online dangers.

Surely the answer you get with that kind of polling is entirely down to the question you ask. If you ask people 'do you hate irrelevant advertising?' they'll say 'yes'.

KE: Ok, forget relevance. Let's talk about the sheer amount of advertising on the internet. You get advertising on the internet in such quantities because the advertisers have no idea of who they're talking to. They'll throw 1,000 ads against the wall to see what will stick. Ninety-nine per cent won't and aren't relevant and have no value to people.

That's what irritates them. Why is there pop-up advertising? Because it has no idea what you're interested in the only way it can get you to react is by getting in your way. Right now everyone is hardwired to believe that being bombarded with ads is an inherent part of the internet. It doesn't have to be.

This idea that we don't provide a service by doing this is as far from the truth as it's possible to be.

This idea that we don't provide a service by doing this is as far from the truth as it's possible to be. We have the opportunity to significantly reduce the amount of advertising you see online by making it more relevant and more valuable. People are concerned that there's going to be more advertising. It's not more, it's less. It's demonstrably less.

Surely it'll be the same amount of advertising, just advertising that knows about you. How would it be less?

KE: Well, if you're a website that can show 10 million untargeted ads at 10 pence per ad or you can show 100,000 at £1 per ad or £10 per ad, you'd rather do the latter.

So we can expect The Guardian and Financial Times to show less advertising?

KE: Yes, I think that most sites in due course will show less advertising. They know it gets in the way of the content.

Most websites don't make any money. but imagine you were able to show your audience an ad based on anything they've done on the internet. Right now all you know is that they're reading your page.

The amount of money you would make would be much higher. This is good for blogs, it's good for the whole long tail. It's good to think about this and what it means long term for the internet - it's the great democratiser of revenue.

It makes the internet safer - and I'm not just making that up - it really does.

Look, if we had anything to hide we wouldn't invite you in here. We'd give you some bullshit statement saying "no comment".

How?

KE: Because our privacy is better. It has got an on/off switch. There's a place consumers can go and say "off".

They can't do that right now. The only thing they can do is disable all cookies, in which case the internet doesn't work, or go to each and every site that drops a cookie on them and say "don't do this". That's like trying to stop 15,000 leaks in the dam. You can't do it.

This centralises control of the user's privacy in their hands.

And yours, surely?

KE: Look, if we had anything to hide we wouldn't invite you in here. We'd give you some bullshit statement saying "no comment".

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