DoubleClick provides comprehensive global interactive marketing
solutions for a broad range of integrated media
solutions to advertisers
, ad agencies
, Web publishers
DoubleClick is already a defendant in several pending class-action lawsuits, and is under fire from numerous privacy groups for stealthily capturing consumer Web surfing and shopping data.
DoubleClick has responded with a five-point privacy initiative that it calls one of the largest public service campaigns in Web history. The company insists that it is doing nothing wrong, and allows Internet users the ability to "opt-out" of its data gathering process.
The way the cookie crumbles....Visit any one of the 1,500 web sites in the DoubleClick Network, and you will have a cookie identifier placed on your hard drive. The site might then let DoubleClick retrieve anonymous information about online activities carried out from your computer.
Meanwhile, in the real world....When you shop at a major retail store or mail-order catalog, your name, address, and details of your purchase are stored in a database owned by Abacus Online, now a DoubleClick division.
Building a dossier...As you surf from one DoubleClick client site to another, an anonymous profile of your online behavior can be assembled, stored, and updated based on the identifying tag of your cookie. The profile can provide details about your preferences and habits.
Ah, it's you! Some web sites associated with Abacus Online ask for your name and address, which can be connected to the Abacus database containing identifiable information about you. Hypothetically, your profile could be completed if the Abacus information were matched with the anonymous detail in a DoubleClick master database. DoubleClick put plans for doing this on hold.
DoubleClick CEO Kevin O'Conner continues to defend the highly targeted online advertising his company helped pioneer. Without it, O'Conner told readers of The Wall Street Journal in an op-ed piece, web sites would be unwilling to provide customers with free access to their sites.
In terms of privacy, that "freedom" may have a high price.
Double Trouble for DoubleClick:
"Big Browser is watching you!" Consumer Reports, May 2000, p. 43.