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BT seeking to drop Phorm cookies

Adam Liversage, BT's chief press officer, has confirmed that the operator is seeking to avoid using cookies in its implementation of the controversial Phorm system.

Phorm, which works with ISPs to develop targeted advertising campaigns by monitoring the websites you visit, uses cookies (client side text files created by your browser) to manage the opt-in/out process:

"By default, the Phorm technology places a cookie on users' machines whether they have opted-in or opted-out," Liversage told ClickZ News. "We have been looking for another method of doing this that does not require any cookies at all."

The cookie method is controversial for a number of reasons, albeit primarily because there are many different browsers and it is not viewed as a fool proof way of ensuring opt-out status. The Carphone Warehouse (TalkTalk) has already adopted an alternative server-side solution.

However, a recent ruling by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) warned that ISPs must present Phorm to users via an opt-in (choice) basis. As a consequence the fallibility of cookies has become more of a problem.

BT is currently preparing to run a public trial of Phorm with 10,000 of its broadband customers. The results of this, both technically and in terms of feedback, could influence how other ISPs and BT themselves approach the technology. The operator has already faced strong criticism for running a number of secret trials, without customer consent, during 2006 and 2007.

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