Phorm Launches Korean Trial Despite Concerns in U.K.

clickz_ukandeu.gifPhorm, the ISP-level behavioral targeting company that has riled privacy advocates in the U.K., is launching a trial of its technology with Korea’s largest ISP, Korea Telecom. KT represents around 40 percent of the Korean ISP market, according to broadband information company, Point Topic.

Speaking with ClickZ News today, Phorm’s CEO Kent Ertugrul did not reveal how many customers would be involved in the trial, or how long it would be conducted for. He did state, however, that the numbers would be “significantly larger” than those involved in British Telecom’s test of the ad system, late last year. The KT tests “may roll into full deployment,” he added. “Korea is often regarded as the world’s leading online society. It has led the way in the future of the Internet, and KT has been very active in working with us,” Ertugrul said.

Phorm said last year that it had a presence in Asia, and it now has around six staff based in the Korean capital of Seoul, according to Ertugrul. Daniel Park has been appointed to head up the operation, and joins from Korean portal, SK Communications, where he was senior vice president of the company’s Search and Portal Division.

Phorm announced in March ’08 that it had signed deals with three of the U.K.’s largest ISPs, but behavioral targeting at the ISP-level has been met with a frosty reception by privacy advocates and consumer rights groups both in Europe and the U.S. At a U.K. parliamentary roundtable event earlier this month, prominent industry figures met to discuss whether the practice was legal or appropriate, and EU officials will meet in Brussels tomorrow to debate matters of online data collection and consumer privacy more widely.

In reference to potential privacy discussions in the Korean market, Ertugrul said, “Everybody cares about privacy, but we’ve opened the debate up, and people will understand that privacy and commerce can be reconciled. Everybody needs relevance: advertisers, publishers, and consumers.”

Outside of Korea, Ertugrul declined to comment on his firm’s progress. In February, he claimed BT would deploy Phorm’s technology across its network by the end of the year; in reference to which, he said, “I’m very happy with our progress. We still expect everything we’ve said in the past.”

“We’ve been in a number of conversations with ISPs globally for several years, and an absence of any announcement in these markets does not mean an absence of progress,” he added.

Despite the fact that behavioral targeting competitor NebuAd appeared to halt its efforts in the U.S. last year as a result of intervention from government and privacy advocates, after testing a similar technology, Ertugrul has expressed continued interest in the market there. In September, he said, “Our experience in the U.K. prepares us well to address concerns that have been raised in the U.S. and to engage accordingly. We believe Phorm’s technology is global and is relevant to any market around the world that has a meaningful broadband user base.”

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