SAN FRANCISCO (03/24/2000) - DoubleClick Inc. has been negotiating for several weeks with the attorneys general of Michigan, New York, Connecticut and Vermont to settle or forestall lawsuits against the company for its use of personal data collected online. The company confirmed the talks but would only say it was "cooperating fully" with the U.S. states' inquiries.
"DoubleClick remains confident that our business practices are consistent with our privacy statement," said DoubleClick policy director Josh Isay, reading from a prepared statement today. "DoubleClick is committed to both protecting consumer privacy and keeping the Internet free."
New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's office began an inquiry into DoubleClick's privacy practices in mid-January -- specifically, the company's sale to third-party telemarketers of consumer information it collected online through its advertising network of sites. Spitzer has been holding ongoing meetings with the company since then, said spokeswoman Juanita Scarlett. She says Spitzer has not decided whether to file suit against the company but is pleased by company's recent announcement that it will not merge data collected online with its offline Abacus database until industry and government agrees on privacy standards.
"We are encouraged with a number of initiatives that DoubleClick has taken to address the concerns of consumers recently," Scarlett says. "At this point, it's too early to say what the next step will be."
Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm early this month filed a notice of her intent to sue DoubleClick over its privacy practices. DoubleClick approached her office after the filing and discussions have been ongoing since then, said Granholm spokesman Chris DeWitt.
"Nothing has been finalized as of yet," DeWitt says. "Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve this short of litigation, but we're certainly not at that stage yet."
Former New York City Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jules Polonetsky began his stint as DoubleClick's chief privacy officer this week. The company announced his hire and the appointment of former four-time New York Attorney General Bob Abrams as the head of its privacy advisory committee at the beginning of March.
Abrams, in his part-time position, has been approaching potential committee members and should announce those names in two to three weeks, DoubleClick spokeswoman Jennifer Blum said yesterday. Abrams will direct his committee's discussions and present its recommendations to DoubleClick executives about the firm's privacy policies.
DoubleClick announced the new positions in mid-February as part of a five-step effort to deal with a rush of criticism and several lawsuits over its plans to merge information about Internet users' online activities with their offline buying habits. DoubleClick Chief Executive Officer Kevin O'Connor said on March 16 that his company will not proceed with those plans until privacy standards are in place.