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Ad Age faces privacy concerns

By Published on .

The potential problems privacy issues pose for marketers and media companies became readily apparent last week to subscribers of Advertising Age's own Web site, AdAge.com.

To announce a new chat service for advertising professionals set up as a co-branded partnership between AdAge.com and TheGlobe.com, an industry provider of interactive chat services, 35,000 registered users of the AdAge.com search engine were sent an e-mail promoting the site and informing them their Ad Age Web user names and passwords could be used.

Instead of coming from AdAge.com, however, the e-mail came from TheGlobe.com, and included the current AdAge.com password of the recipient.

Nearly two dozen AdAge.com subscribers complained, worried that information they had furnished Adage.com had been sold to others. (Not all visitors to the Ad Age site register; registration is mandatory only for visitors who want to use the search engine. All others can use the site without filling out any forms or needing a password.)

Both Advertising Age and TheGlobe.com last week said that no Web registration list information was sold. Instead, they said, the two companies were working together to avoid forcing subscribers to create a second password to go to the chat room.

Advertising Age VP-Publisher Ed Erhardt said AdAge.com's mistake was not sending the notice under its own name, which made many recipients of the e-mail wonder how another company had gotten hold of their passwords. He said AdAge.com also will disclose more prominently its privacy policies against selling information on its Web site.

Mr. Erhardt last week sent a notice to all AdAge.com subscribers apologizing.

"We are obviously very aware of privacy. The reason that we took such an aggressive action ... and have publicly apologized in the press and on the site is we are very sensitive to this issue," he said.

"We do not sell passwords or names to others. We never have and we never will," he said, adding that the privacy policies of Advertising Age's parent, Crain Communications Inc., will be added to the AdAge.com Web site.

Esther Loewy, TheGlobe.com's director of communications, said the New York-based company has sent similar messages when other marketers created their own chat rooms but welcoming messages from

TheGlobe.com had arrived after e-mails from those marketers notifying their subscribers.

Ms. Loewy said the AdAge.com chat room is extremely targeted, with the room only accessible from the AdAge.com site, whereas most marketers have rooms accessible from TheGlobe.com site.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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