25 July 2012

Big Alan

Monday's UK Independent, under the heading 'Big Alan is watching you … on YouView: Catch-up box will report all your programme choices so broadcasters – and the neighbours – learn your habits', reports on privacy aspects of a Tivo-style service -
 YouView allows broadcasters and their commercial partners to know exactly which programmes you are watching, and when. 
An internet connection from the box to the outside world tracks individual choices and reports the data back to the company, gathering similar information to that collected online by Google. YouView will use the material to build up a profile of each user. 
The company – some of whose employees worked for Phorm, a US technology firm accused of developing advertising spyware – hopes to become as popular in British living rooms as Sky. Priced at £300 with no further television subscription, its box will be sold by John Lewis, Currys and other retailers later this year and offered by internet service providers as part of phone and broadband packages. 
Prospective viewers, however, may not be aware that the technology will record each channel being viewed. Each time you change channels or start/stop recording a programme, YouView reports back to headquarters via the internet connection, telling the company what it is you are watching and what you are doing with the box. 
The profile might contain information such as the type of box being used, when you first used YouView, your internet address, which programmes you have watched, and whether you prefer sports, news or cookery programmes and so on. 
YouView indicates that data from each box will be anonymised and "only relates to the device and is mainly technical in nature"."YouView doesn't sell advertising so it doesn't use data for behaviourally targeted advertising" but data will be passed to third-party companies, allowing targeted advertising on a postcode by postcode basis. Presumably targeting could be more granular.

The service is touted as a 'carcase' that will eventually be enhanced to include on-demand movies, games and other services.

The Independent indicates that
 Other likely applications are features such as "What's hot in your area" showing what neighbours are watching, with percentages for each show displaying, for instance, that 40 per cent are watching Downton Abbey, 31 per cent Strictly Come Dancing and 3 per cent shows on gambling or pornography. 
'Neighbours' presumably covers an aggregate of consumers in the particular postcode or other catchment area, rather than a report that the little old lady two doors down is fogging up the screen watching a documentary on dogging.

Legality? The service is broadly permissible under UK law on the basis that consumers agree to sharing of information.

The YouView privacy statement indicates that -
YouView is committed to safeguarding your personal information. Whenever you provide such information, we are legally obliged to use your information in line with all laws concerning the protection of personal information, including the Data Protection Act 1998 (these laws are referred to collectively in this Privacy Policy as the "data protection laws"). 
We will keep your information confidential except where disclosure is required or permitted by law (for example to government bodies and law enforcement agencies). However, we may use third parties to process your information but only for the purposes set out in this policy. These third parties will be required to comply strictly with our instructions and we will also require that they do not use your personal information for their own business purposes, unless you have explicitly consented to the use of your personal information in this way. We will not otherwise share your personal information without first seeking your consent. 
Under the Data Protection Act you have the right to request a copy of the personal information we hold about you and to have any inaccuracies corrected. (We charge £10 for information requests and require you to prove your identity with 2 pieces of approved identification). We will use reasonable efforts to supply, correct or delete personal information about you on our files.