Ad servers pitch privacy code

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An association of ad servers is seeking informal government endorsement for a proposed industry privacy code that would bar combining old, non-personally identifiable information with new information that is personally identifiable.

Members of the Network Advertising Initiative-a group of leading ad-serving and Web data collectors, including DoubleClick, 24/7 Media, CMGI's Engage Technologies and Excite@Home's MatchLogic-last week declined to detail their proposal. But one executive who has seen it said it contains promises similar to but more expansive than those offered earlier this month by DoubleClick. The group last week presented its proposal to the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Under its terms, members of the initiative would agree to two major elements. First, consumers whose clickstream data may have been gathered anonymously in the past would get an assurance that none of that data would ever be combined in profiles containing a consumer's name and address. Ad servers that want to create a profile based on a consumer's name and address would have to collect an online profile all over again.

Second, offline database information on individual consumers would only be combined with new online databases after a consumer gave permission to combine the two.

MEETING ALLIANCE STANDARDS

The ad server companies also would agree to comply with the Online Privacy Alliance's standards, which cover a broader group of Web marketers.

An FTC official said the agency is examining the proposal and could contact Network Advertising Initiative as early as this week.

The proposed code was among several major developments in privacy last week.

In one, the U.S. and the European Union reached agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce on the steps that would put U.S. companies in compliance with an EU privacy directive.

The final agreement could force U.S. companies keeping information on EU citizens to give self-regulatory groups, including Trust-e, BBBOnline and others, greater enforcement authority.

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