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DoubleClick stands tall for on-line privacy rights

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Clearly shaken by recent reports of what some consider a dangerous alliance with catalogue marketer Abacus Direct, Net marketer DoubleClick has taken the initiative in the war of words. "With notice and with choice, the merger of these two databases can be a great thing," DoubleClick President Kevin Ryan burbled during a New York press conference Monday afternoon. "DoubleClick has always led the online advertising industry in providing Internet users with notice and the choice not to receive targeted ads," he added. Ryan based this affirmation on the fact that DoubleClick gathers no information related to credit accounts, medical records or the details of children, though The Register can't help noticing that this leaves an immense field of potentially sensitive information unaccounted for. Ryan then unveiled the company's ambitions for the future. "DoubleClick will only do business with US Web publishers that have a clear privacy policy," he explained, with no word about what might be done if a site should fail to enforce its own guidelines. "We can't be involved in enforcing privacy policies," he noted when pressed for an answer. The company has also retained PricewaterhouseCoopers to perform periodic "privacy audits", Ryan said. These will begin within a few months and be carried out semi-annually, or something like that, Ryan believes. DoubleClick will also nominate a "chief privacy officer" who will report directly to the board of directors and "serve as sort of ombudsman," Ryan announced. The company has yet to nominate a candidate, but interviews are now being conducted, he said. But the company's most ambitious privacy project will be an awareness campaign employing some 50 million banner ads (what else?) extolling the virtues of advertiser-led privacy schemes and linking to the company's opt-out service called Privacy Choices. A nice gesture, but, as the company notes, "opting out on the Privacy Choices site only blocks your cookies from DoubleClick." The other score of marketing leeches dropping cookies on your box will have to be approached on a case-by-case basis, we regret to report. So, what has DoubleClick accomplished here? Very little in terms of affecting the average surfer's vulnerability to unwanted advertising, but perhaps a great deal in terms of advising Washington that it can sit back and let the Madison Avenue boys handle the numerous sticky problems plaguing on-line consumers. The flaw in this reasoning, of course, is that Washington likes meddling with such hot-button issues, in spite of the fact that it's hopelessly ill-equipped for the challenge. We told you yesterday that the current legislative session promised superior amusement....and we meant it. ® Drew Cullen writes: The Register uses Doubleclick's DART ad-serving software. We have a privacy policy too. Here it is: Your Privacy. Related Stories DoubleClick hit by email privacy war Doubleclick sued over alleged cookie abuse

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