Behavioural targeting has become a significant concern to privacy advocates. In the past, the ability of marketers to track, profile, and target individual consumers with specific advertising has been limited by marketers need for those consumers to browse to specific websites or use specific web services. Beginning in 2007, web marketing businesses began to introduce technologies that target the traffic streams of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a source of data for building profiles of individual ISP customers. Given the rich body of data customers provide to ISPs for the purposes of browsing the web and using online services - and the resulting privacy concerns raised - ISP entry into the behavioural targeting market has proven controversial for consumers and regulators alike.

This F.A.Q. was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council



  • CIPPIC's letter to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, dated July 25, 2008, requesting that that she intervene to establish rules around the use of behavioural targeting technologies at the ISP level in Canada
  • Washington Post: "Every Click You Make" : Provides a general level overview of ISP-level behavioural targeting.
  • The Register's Phorm Files : British website The Register has compiled their extensive reporting on Phorm's activities in the United Kingdom.
  • Digital Destiny : Jeff Chester's reports on digital media and public interest issues are invaluable. Often mining trade publications, Chester has established himself as a leading voice on behavioural targeting.
  • Specific Media's description of behavioural targeting : Advertising firm Specific Media provides its explanation of the practice of behavioural targeting.
  • Phorm : Behavioural targeting company Phorm provides its own explanation of how its technology works.
  • NebuAd : Behavioural targeting company NebuAd provides its own explanation of how its technology works.
  • Richard Clayton's Report on the Phorm "Webwise" System : Richard Clayton, Treasure for the Foundation for Information Policy Research, interviewed Phorm representatives and compiled a very detailed report on the technical specifics of how the Phorm "Webwise" system functions.
  • Page Sense External Validation Report : This internal report from Phorm's 2006 secret trials with BT that was leaked to the public via wikiLinks. It was reported on by The Register in April 2008.
  • NebuAd and Partner ISPs: Wiretapping, Forgery and Browser Hijacking : This report details how NebuAd's web tracking technology works and alleges that the NebuAd hardware impersonates the websites requested by a user in order to insert its own bits of code.
  • U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Hearing "What Your Broadband Provider Knows About Your Web Use" : The U.S. House of Representatives held hearings into internet service providers' use of Deep Packet Inspection technologies. The testimony of different parties provides more information about some the issues with behavioural targeting. Center for Democracy and Technology Chief Computer Scientist Alissa Cooper provides a privacy advocate perspective, while NebuAd CEO Robert Dykes provides a behavioural targeting company perspective.