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8/26/2002
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DoubleClick Settles Lawsuit, But Still Can Track Web Surfers

The agreement requires the company to explain on sites how it tracks and profiles Web surfers' usage data.

DoubleClick Inc. on Monday vowed to give consumers more information about how it collects data online, settling a 30-month investigation led by the New York Attorney General's Office.

The agreement struck between DoubleClick and 10 states requires the company to explain on Web sites how it tracks and profiles Web surfers' usage data. DoubleClick leaves "cookie" files on computers that visit a Web site using its services. That lets DoubleClick track users' Web travels, create profiles based on that activity, and deliver online ads that match the profiles.

DoubleClick, which has a business relationship with InformationWeek, didn't admit wrongdoing in the agreement, but it must pay $450,000 to the states to cover their investigative costs and consumer education. States joining New York in the settlement are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington. In May, DoubleClick paid $1.8 million and enacted new disclosure rules to settle an action brought by the Federal Trade Commission.

DoubleClick is the largest profiler of consumers' Web surfing habits and the settlement includes significant concessions from the company in the area of disclosure but none that limits how it collects data, says Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., a privacy advocacy firm. Catlett says DoubleClick's profiling is an invasion of people's privacy and that Monday's settlement, which ends the last major legal action against DoubleClick, demonstrates that U.S. laws on Web privacy are inadequate. Says Catlett, "The legal tools are inadequate when it comes to dealing with Web surveillance."

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