Feeds

Is Hitwise in the Phorm biz?

When ad targeters attack their own

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Front Porch – a Silicon Valley startup offering a Phorm-like online ad system – has sued several companies for patent infringement, including NebuAd, Hitwise, and Microsoft.

The patent at the heart of this suit does not cover the sort of ISP-based behavioral ad targeting that Phorm, NebuAd, and Front Porch are now famous for. But it may point to other companies who've waded into similar waters - most notably Hitwise, a self-styled "competitive intelligence service" whose traffic monitoring software sits inside 30 ISPs across the globe, tracking the online behavior of 25 million people.

In mid-July, just as the stateside controversy over NebuAd's ad targeting reached its peak, Front Porch filed a federal suit under the name Pagemelding Inc., one of its subsidiaries.

Front Porch CEO Zach Britton and co-inventor Derek Maxson own a US patent entitled "Method and apparatus for dynamically forming customized web pages for web sites." Basically, it describes a means of serving up customized pages and ads to customers of a particular ISP.

"ICPs [Internet Content Providers] can...attract Internet traffic from organizations that have direct access to the Internet," the patent reads. "There is, therefore, a need for a method and apparatus which enable an ICP to dynamically form customized web pages for ISPs and organizations that have direct access to the Internet.

"There is another need for a method and apparatus which enable an ICP to dynamically select advertisements to be included in customized web pages."

The idea is quite simple. You check a user's address, and if the address originates from a particular network location, you customize pages accordingly.

Front Porch Patent Image

How Front Porch customizes ISP web pages

With its suit, Front Porch accuses five companies of violating this patent: Feeva Technology, Hitwise USA, Kindsight, Microsoft, and NebuAd. "This lawsuit is intended to enforce our patented technology against a number of recent infringements," Front Porch CEO Zach Britton told The Reg, declining to elaborate.

At the time of writing, Hitwise and NebuAd were the only defendants who responded to our requests for comment. And both said they would not comment on pending litigation.

Like Phorm in the UK, NebuAd has received considerable criticism over the past several months for deploying its ad targeting system on several American ISPs without providing adequate notice - never mind requiring an opt-in. After a request from Congress, ISPs say they've suspended use of such systems, and NebuAd says it has temporarily turned its attentions to other technologies.

Using deep packet inspection, the company's ISP-level hardware tracks a web surfer's search and browsing activity and shuttles it to various advertising networks, where it's used to target ads. If you search for, say, French vacations, you'll soon see ads for French vacations. The company says each user's IP is anonymized, but US law may still require an opt-in.

Front Porch offers a similar system, and it too has been put on hold as Congress investigates behavioral ad targeting. But Britton has always told The Reg that unlike offerings from Phorm and NebuAd, his system is opt-in only and does not use cookies.

With its suit, Front Porch is not accusing NebuAd - or any other company - of mimicking the way it tailors ads according to user search and browsing habits. But the suit does indicate that each defendant is somehow altering web pages or online advertisements. We all know that's what NebuAd does (or did). But what about the other four?

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.