The Virus Alerts service will log all websites visited, but won’t infringe users’ privacy, says TalkTalk
TalkTalk is going ahead with tests of a network-based anti-malware service which logs all the URLs visited by its customers, despite fears that it will breach users’ privacy.
The Virus Alerts service, which TalkTalk tested in secret until users uncovered the project in July, records all web addresses visited by TalkTalk customers and can warn users who are visiting a site known to contain malware. Users complained in July that it was tested on them without their consent, and compared it to the notorious Phorm service, with which BT intended to target adverts based on user activity.
Users now have an opt-in to Virus Alerts
To avoid the criticism which surrounded July’s secret trial, users will be invited to opt-in to the new test, and the system will not track individual browsing histories, according to a blog by Clive Dorsman, managing director of technology at TalkTalk.
A FAQ on the new service argues that network-based anti-malware is better than that installed on individual PCs, because it allows the ISP to protect other Internet devices in a home as well as PCs, covering “the whole connected home”.
“We now expect to be able to commence trials for a limited number of customers who have agreed to test our anti-malware system in the next few weeks,” said Dorsman. “This system will warn customers who opt into the service about sites they try to access, which we know to be infected with viruses or other malicious software.”
ThoughVirus Alerts, provided by Chinese network company Huawei, tracks all the sites visited by TalkTalk customers, Dorsman said “the system simply records the destination website URLs; it does not record who sends the request or other personal data with the URL.”
In September, the Information Commissioner investigated TalkTalk over the Virus Alerts test, but apparently it has been convinced that this test is above board. Dorsman said TalkTalk has “had some useful discussions with the relevant public bodies.”
On a different front, TalkTalk is championing user privacy, in opposing the Digital Economy Act, which would require it to monitor users’ downloads and issue warnings to people sharing copyright material. BThis month, BT and TalkTalk won a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.