The Phorm system that BT Retail, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse have signed up to shows no signs of disappearing from the headlines. The Register has details on a 10,000 user trial over at BT Retail; the BT website detailing the service is webwise.bt.com/webwise.
The trial is set to start shortly in March and the invitation will require customers to explicitly opt-in. To date, the other providers involved have said very little about the system. Plusnet, which is owned by BT Retail, is largely unaffected at this time, though customers on their Pay-As-You-Go products who have two log-ins (RIN enabled customers) will have the option of using a pure Plusnet connection, or one using BT Central Plus and thus the Phorm system eventually. This post by a member of the Plusnet Comms team details how PAYG customers can avoid the system.
Reading the technical information so far released via The Register it appears that the Phorm system may add some latency to web browsing and represent an additional failure point. What many people do not realise is that when you type in a web page URL, this initial request gets the basic HTML page but after this a flurry of further requests are sent by your browser to obtain the various other elements of the page e.g. images. Thus a single web page load will be a myriad of HTTP requests. For those curious about traffic shaping the diagram has a set of devices labeled DPI, which we believe stands for Deep Packet Inspection which is most likely to be the Ellacoya devices for traffic management purposes.
One interesting possibility with targeted advertising is that if a persons profile shows that they are visiting a lot of broadband providers sites, the BT/Virgin Media/Carphone Warehouse portal might serve you ever more enticing advertising aimed at retaining you as a customer.
One question that has not been answered as far as we know yet, is how postcodes in the format AB1 2CD will be anonymised on the Phorm systems, since even if white space is ignored the two digits do not meet the 'three digits and above are anonymised' rule.