FTC Closes DoubleClick Investigation

N E W   Y O R K, Jan. 23, 2001 -- The Federal Trade Commission on Monday ended its investigation into the data collection practices of DoubleClick Inc., the nation’s largest Internet advertising company.

The FTC began its investigation in February 2000, questioning whether DoubleClick improperly amassed personal information about Internet users.

In a letter to DoubleClick’s attorney, Christine A. Varney, trade commission official Joel Winston wrote: “DoubleClick never used or disclosed” consumers personal identifying information “for purposes other than those disclosed in its privacy policy.”

Database Cause for Concern

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group, has accused DoubleClick of seeking to build virtual dossiers on consumers’ buying habits and identities after assuring Web users that information collected about them would remain confidential.

The complaints against DoubleClick were sparked by the company’s $1.7 billion purchase last fall of direct marketing company Abacus and DoubleClick’s plans to cross-reference its records of consumers’ online habits with a Abacus database that includes names and other identifying data. The company eventually scrapped those plans.

“DoubleClick remains committed to ensuring the highest level of online consumer privacy, both within our company and throughout the industry,” Kevin Ryan, CEO of DoubleClick, said in a statement on Monday.

In order to improve privacy protection for consumers, DoubleClick promised the FTC that it would disclose and explain how it tracks Web users, that it would offer consumers the option of not having information about them collected online by DoubleClick and that it would clarify its privacy policy.

The New York-based DoubleClick electronically inserts advertisements on behalf of online advertisers on more than 1,500 Web sites.