Article 43


Monday, December 15, 2008

The Mother of All Privacy Battles Part 14 - Phorm Gets Green Light


BT finishes trial, expects to use Phorm

The company has said it could now deploy Phorm’s ad-serving technology, following the completion of the third trial

By Tom Espiner
December 15, 2008

BT has finished its third trial of behavioural ad-serving technology from Phorm, and has announced that it will probably go ahead with deployment.

The trial of the technology, which BT has branded ‘Webwise’, began on 30 September and ran until 10 December.

The technology has attracted protests from peers, politicians, technologists and thinktanks, with concerns having been expressed over potential legal and privacy issues. The technology is also the subject of a probe by the European Commission.

BT said that it would now perform an analysis of the trial, adding that it expects to use the technology.

“The trial has now concluded and achieved its primary objective of testing all the elements necessary for a larger deployment, including the serving of small volumes of targeting advertising,” said the company in a statement on Monday. “There will now be a period of joint analysis of the results. Following successful completion of analysis of both the trial results and of any changes required for expansion, BT’s expectation is to move towards deployment.”

BT declined to comment further at the time of writing. The company would not confirm whether or not 10,000 customers had taken part in the trial, as originally planned. BT also declined to give details, at the time of writing, about how many invitations had been sent out, or why it had taken two and a half months to conduct the trial. Originally the trial was intended to last for two weeks.

Phorm’s ad-serving technology works by assigning a user a unique identifier through which their browsing habits are observed, so that advertisements can be targeted at them. Although BT stated that this trial would be anonymous, anti-Phorm campaigner Alexander Hanff said that he was concerned about opt-in cookies remaining on users’ systems.

According to Hanff, if BT deploys Webwise throughout its network, any customer who opted into the trials could automatically be opted back into Webwise once it is deployed, as opt-in cookies will already be present on their machines.

“This is a significant concern and one I can see no immediate solution for, as BT [is] unable to identify the trial customers to instruct them on how to remove these Webwise opt-in cookies,” wrote Hanff on the UK Crypto mailing list.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Monday, Hanff said that BT may still decide not to use the technology.

“There’s still pressure from the [European Commission] and the public that may mean BT doesn’t deploy the system,” said Hanff, who added that the Crown Prosecution Service is still considering whether to launch a prosecution against BT over two previous trials.

BT conducted two trials of Phorm’s technology in 2006 and 2007, attracting protests from privacy campaigners and politicians. The trials were conducted without users’ consent, which campaigners claimed contravened interception laws.


Posted by Elvis on 12/15/08 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Don’t Tell Me The Problem Is Education


Tech Layoffs Surge Past 100,000

By Erick Schonfeld
Tech Crunch
December 12, 2008

After a lull around Thanksgiving, December has seen some of the biggest layoffs in the tech industry yet since the economy entered its tailspin in the fall. Our LAYOFF TRACKER is now past 100,000 lost jobs (109,629, as of this writing) across nearly 300 different technology and media companies both large and small. To put this in perspective, Citigroup alone announced 52,000 layoffs in November, and across the U.S. economy, just counting September and October, there were nearly 500,000 unemployment claims as a result of MASS LAYOFFS (data isn’t in yet for November or December).

December, though, has seen no let-up in the number of tech jobs being eliminated. Sony announced 8,000 layoffs on Tuesday, AT&T topped that with 12,000 the week before, and Alacatel-Lucent added another 1,000 today. Yahoo’s previously announced layoffs of 1,500 employees took effect this week, and Cnet saw the brunt of the estimated 275 layoffs across CBS interactive (although other units, such as, were not spared).

Pink slips were also passed out at Divx (21), Silicon Graphics (160), and Sandisk (300). But the single worst day so far was December 4th, when 18,816 tech jobs disappeared. Most of those (12,000) came from AT&T, but on that day layoffs hit Real Networks (130), IBM Japan (2,500), Viacom (850), NBC (500), and Careerbuilder (300)


Posted by Elvis on 12/15/08 •
Section Telecom Underclass
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More Americans Hungry And Homeless In 2008


Homelessness, Hunger On Rise In US Cities: Report
Raw Story
December 12, 2008

HOMELESSNESS and hunger increased in an overwhelming majority of 25 US cities in the past year, DRIVEN BY the FORECLOSURE CRISIS and RISING UNEMPLOYMENT, a SURVEY SHOWED Friday.

Out of 25 cities across the United States surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors, 83 percent said homelessness in general had increased over the past year while 16 cities, or nearly two-thirds of those polled, cited a rise in the number of families who had been forced out of their homes.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the number of homeless families increased 58 percent in 2008 to 931 families from 591 people in 2007, with the rise blamed on soaring food, health care, transportation and energy prices.

Boston, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island blamed the rise in family homelessness on evictions by landlords whose rental properties were foreclosed.

Meanwhile, the number of people seeking food assistance for the first time was up in all 21 cities with data on the issue, and was “particularly notable among working families stressed by the increase in food prices and the slowdown in the economy,” the report said.

Officials in Philadelphia told the survey that “new people coming to food cupboards are people that are employed with children.

“With food prices increasing as much as 30 percent and incomes either staying the same or decreasing, it is impossible for them to feed their families,” the report said.

When asked to identify the three main causes of hunger, 83 percent of cities cited poverty, 74 percent cited unemployment and 57 percent cited the high cost of housing.

And while demand for food assistance was up, providing it was more difficult for cities as the faltering economy and rising joblessness—two key reasons for the increased demand—also caused the number of donations to fall.

Greater efficiency in large grocery stores and food suppliers has also shrunk the availability of FOOD ASSISTANCE because it has decreased food donations from the large organizations, which are the main donors to food banks.

Food Banks—places where donated food is made available free-of-charge to needy people—are the main providers of food aid in most US cities.

They have struggled in the past year to maintain stock levels due to the increased cost of food and fuel.

“Los Angeles, Boston and Portland reported that increases in the price of food have lead to a decrease in the quantity of food they are able to purchase,” the report said.

“In Phoenix, where the cost of fuel and trucking expenses has increased by as much as 72 percent, the total amount of food distributed decreased by 13 percent even though the level of funding increased by 30 percent,” it said.

The price of food increased 6.2 percent on average over the last year, the largest increase in nearly 20 years, the report said.

And during the 12-month period ending in September for which most of the cities provided data, gasoline (petrol) prices skyrocketed in the United States to reach record highs of more than four dollars per gallon to the consumer, with the price of diesel fuel used by truckers going even higher.



Posted by Elvis on 12/15/08 •
Section Dying America
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