Telecoms giant Vodafone is testing a new way to track people’s online activity and, as usual these days, some people aren’t really fond of the words “tracking” and “online” being put in the same sentence.
The operator is currently testing an advertising ID system dubbed TrustPid, which works by creating a fixed ID for every customer at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level, and then associating all user activity with that ID.
The profile, which will be formed with input from multiple parameters, will then be used for the distribution of targeted, personalized advertising. The company says that there is no way for the system to be bypassed at the browser level, by blocking cookies or masking the IP address.
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Free internet means ads
For Vodafone, the math is simple - if the internet is to remain free, the users are to remain the product:
"Consumers appreciate the idea of a 'free' Internet, but this comes with a trade-off: publishers need a sustainable revenue model, meaning that it becomes essential to add subscription paywalls or rely on advertising to maintain free access to high-quality content," the official TrustPid website says.
As usual, when it comes to tracking, the idea of privacy pops up. Vodafone says TrustPid will assign each user “random numbers” reducing the risk of individuals being directly identified. For some, however, these assurances are insufficient.
Speaking to BleepingComputer, Patrick Breyer, member of the European Parliament and digital rights activist, said tracking people online makes them susceptible to manipulation, and that such practices should be terminated at their inception.
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“These personality profiles, which even cover political opinion, sexual orientation, or medical conditions, are a risk to privacy but also to national security, where officials can be blackmailed, and also to democracy, where elections and referendums can be manipulated. A unique ID would allow for monitoring our entire digital lives. These schemes are totally unacceptable, and the trials should be stopped. Democracy is not for sale”.
The test is taking place in Germany, with Bild.de being one of the sites participating in the pilot, and could be rolled out to other territories soon.
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Via: BleepingComputer (opens in new tab)