DoubleClick Chairman-CEO Kevin O'Connor announced March 2 the embattled Web ad network is suspending plans to connect names to anonymous online user data "until there is agreement between government and industry on privacy standards.'' DoubleClick raised a firestorm among privacy advocates with its intent to merge data of consumers' offline and Web activities, tying together its online data with the offline data it obtained when it bought Abacus Direct Corp. in November. New York-based DoubleClick now is pulling back from one controversial aspect of the planto connect names to its anonymous database of online users' Web activities. In a statement, Mr. O'Connor said he made a mistake in planning to merge names with anonymous data "in the absence of government and industry privacy standards.'' He added: "It is now time for industry, consumers and government to develop a clear set of guidelines that help create a healthy, free Internet while protecting the privacy of all consumers.'' Advertising groups reacted with expressions of relief at DoubleClick's move. "We hope the FTC and other groups were working on the issues, but this may give an impetus to the push to talk out the ramifications,'' said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. Privacy advocate Jason Catlett also applauded DoubleClick's action. "DoubleClick has not only made the right business decision for their own company in suspending their tracking plans, they have also taken the right public policy choice of looking for consensus on standards for information practices for their industry," Mr. Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., said in a statement.
Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.