Targeted advertising firm Phorm is launching a service that promises to direct consumers who choose to participate to the most relevant parts of Websites they visit, based on their browsing history.
Phorm, which sparked outrage from some parties for conducting secret trials with British telecoms supplier BT in 2006, plans to offer its Webwise Discover to the customers of Internet service providers (ISPs) with which it has agreements.
Phorm collects anonymized information on users' browsing habits through the ISPs to better target advertising. It says it keeps no records of consumers' browsing histories or any other personally identifiable information.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Phorm emphasized the usefulness of its technology to consumers, not just advertisers.
It gave an example of a user arriving on a news site, saying that the service could present the person with articles about their favorite sports team or celebrity, or someone who had been browsing for a particular camera would see reviews or auctions of likely interest.
Currently, South Korean ISP KT is conducting a market trial of Phorm's technology, while BT is evaluating the results of a trial it ran last year.
Britain's Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse are also exploring the possibilities of working with Phorm.
For the technology to work, Phorm needs to have a partnership with the customer's ISP as well as the publisher of the site in question.
Phorm is offering Webwise Discover to publishers for free, even those with which it does not have an advertising relationship. In cases where an advertising deal exists, the user would also be shown targeted advertising.
Mike Moore, the company's global commercial director, told Reuters the technology had been favorably received and said Phorm would meet later on Wednesday with about 50 UK publishers including national newspapers and social networks.
Something that's free and that will help publishers merchandise more of their content -- that's something that they're going to find very, very interesting, Moore said.
Customers of participating ISPs would receive an explicit invitation to sign up for the service when they went online, Phorm said.
The company said it would also be evident to users whether they were on a site of a publisher using Phorm's technology.
Phorm said that in a survey of 2,075 Internet users in Britain conducted by Populus, 81 percent of consumers who expressed a preference said they liked personalized content and advertising, which comes with built-in anti-fraud software.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Karen Foster)