A system that will allow Britain’s biggest internet firms to record and cash in on their customers’ surfing habits could go live later this year.
BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are all considering launching Webwise, which would track the internet pages that their 11million customers visit.
The system creates an anonymous profile of a surfer’s interests, which is then used by retailers and others to target them with related adverts.
Computer users linked to Webwise find that certain sites they visit will automatically show advertisements related to their profile.
The U.S. company behind the system – Phorm – insists it is far less intrusive than the existing tracking and profiling of surfers that is carried out by internet search engines such as Yahoo and Google.
It says there is nothing to link a name or address to the anonymous profile of interests. At the same time, there is no database of users that is sold to advertisers.
Retailers and others linked to the Webwise system will pay websites to place advertisements they know will be targeted at consumers with an interest in their products.