DoubleClick Sued for Privacy Violations

LONDON (01/28/2000) - A California woman filed suit against DoubleClick Inc. yesterday, accusing the U.S.-based online advertising company of unlawfully obtaining and selling consumers' personal information, according to a statement issued by her attorney's office.

Hariett M. Judnick filed the suit in Marin County Superior Court in California, on behalf of the "general public of the state of California," the statement said.

The suit alleges that DoubleClick employs Internet cookies to identify users and track their movements on the Internet. The company tracks and records the sites an individual visits, as well as the information transmitted on the sites, such as names, ages, addresses, shopping patterns and financial information.

A cookie is data that a Web site leaves on a user's computer after visiting a Web site, allowing the site to know next time who is visiting.

The suit alleges that after DoubleClick's purchase of direct-marketing firm Abacus Direct Corp. last year, it combined the cookie technology with the information it acquired, in order to collect and cross-reference personal information without the consent or knowledge of users. [See "DoubleClick Completes US$1.7B Merger with Abacus," Nov. 24, 1999.]According to the suit, DoubleClick misrepresented itself to the general public by claiming that it was not collecting information that would compromise user privacy.

Judnick is requesting an injunction against DoubleClick to stop the company from collecting further information. It also wants the company to provide means for Internet users to destroy all personal information that has already been gathered on them, the claimant's lead counsel, Ira Rothken, said in the statement .

User privacy has become a sensitive issue among Internet users. Last year, Real Networks Inc. came under fire for gathering personal information about users of the company's RealJukebox software -- which lets users download digital music files from the Net -- without their consent. [See "RealNetworks Apologizes for Invading User Privacy," Nov. 2, 1999.]DoubleClick, in New York, can be contacted at +1-212-271-2542, or at http://www.doubleclick.net.

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