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Doubleclick, the world's biggest online ad serving company, is coughing up $1.8m in legal fees and costs to settle all privacy class actions against the company.

At the same time it "commits to a series of industry-leading privacy protections for online consumers". This includes limiting the life of cookies to five years (there wasn't a limit before) and stronger opt-in provisions.

Yahoo! meanwhile yesterday earned the wrath of privacy campaigners with its new privacy and email policies, which see the Internet giant move from opt-in to opt-out for email advertising.

This new policy simply allows Yahoo! to send customers more spam, But Catlett, president of Junkbusters, told ComputerWorld. We agree, but Yahoo! has a long way to fall, before it becomes as unpopular on this score as did Doubleclick.

The ad server company fell foul of privacy campaigners in January 2000, shortly after it bought an offline database business. The company then set to work on seeing how it could merge personally identifiable information culled from this source with its own online stats.

Doubleclick quickly backtracked, following a blizzard of protest. But by then the damage was done, with privacy suits galore, and the company's name becoming synomymous with privacy abuse in the eyes of millions.

As it happens, the company was better than many, and no worse than most in its late 90s laisser-faire attitude towards personal data. But mud sticks. At some point Doubleclick may consider changing its name ; its main ad server product is called DART, and this is as good a candidate as any for a corporate makeover. ®

Doubleclick press release

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